26 March 2019 Watford, United Kingdom [June Coombs]
When a ball starts rolling it can sometimes end up somewhere unexpected. That was certainly the case for Enoch Kanageraj, a member of Stanborough Park Church, England, when he set up the Community Chaplaincy Service at his local church.
His aim of raising the church’s profile in the community and establishing and meeting local needs not only got off to a good start, but also led to unexpected developments when he was appointed to Watford Football Club’s External Advisory Group. This deals with diversity issues. He then received a prestigious annual award from Watford Borough Council for his involvement with the community.
As a first attempt to engage with the wider community he inaugurated an Annual Christmas Picture Competition. Local schoolchildren were encouraged to submit their artwork on a Christmas theme. The competition proved to be popular with all sections of the community, Christian or otherwise, and just celebrated its fifth prize-giving.
In 2018 Kanageraj was encouraged by then church minister, Pastor Jacques Venter, to take this a stage further and bring local community groups into the church to explain how they operated and to seek support. This led to Community Days with representatives from various organisations, including the local women’s groups, charities for the homeless, The Red Box Project and the local police. The day was a mixture of presentations and displays.
Around the same time, a Co-op supermarket where Kanageraj works became part of the company’s Foodshare scheme. Food past its ‘sell by’ date and unable to be sold is collected by local charity schemes to feed the needy. One local recipient was Annette Kelly who was running the ‘GoKula’ cafe in central Watford on a pay-as-much-as-you-can-afford basis with free food for the homeless on Mondays. Through her, Kanageraj also met others who help with the homeless.
Everyone working on their own individual projects was good, but he realised just how much more effective they could be if they communicated together, shared resources, and targeted problem areas together. Kanageraj contacted local groups inviting them to meet at The Stanborough Centre. The response was positive and included the Mayor, representatives from the local council, the voluntary services council, the police, Neighbourhood Watch and a variety of charities.
Several meetings later, and with the Premiership Watford Football Club on board, members of the group, now calling itself ‘One Vision’, benefitted from food-handling and child protection training offered at the church. They also took over running the ‘GoKula’ café, rebranding it as ‘One Vision’, with the aim of holding workshops and highlighting healthy eating, as well as making it an inclusive location for everyone, especially those less fortunate.
The official opening on Monday, 25 February, was attended by many of the ‘One Vision’ group and included people of all faiths and none. The Adventist Church’s Health Ministries director, Sharon Platt-McDonald, whose books on healthy eating were on display, was present along with local pastor, Geert Tap.
Now a Chairman of ‘One Vision’, Kanageraj was invited to join the Premiership League’s External Advisory Group. Members are selected from a large range of minority groups within the area and advise the club on diversity issues.
He was also invited to attend Watford Borough Council’s annual Audentior Awards Ceremony where, to his surprise, Kanageraj was presented with the Chairman’s Award.
The award was presented by well-respected former Watford FC team member, Luther Blissett. “The town and I were very excited that for the first time in history this award was won by someone from the BAME community (Black, Asian and minority ethnic). I am pleased, honoured and humbled to accept this award and I would like to thank everyone who supported ‘One Vision’ to come this far,” Kanageraj responded.
The event, sponsored by Watford Football Club and held at its premises, included a gala dinner raising funds for Watford Mental Health charities, Guideposts and Signpost.
Kanageraj is not the first Stanborough Park church member to receive this award; that honour goes to Pat Walton for her work running the church’s welfare service and community projects for well over two decades.
To read more about Community engagement projects at Stanborough Park Church, please visit their website: https://stanboroughpark.adventistchurch.org.uk/
The article first appeared in Stanborough Park Church news.
tedNEWS Staff: Victor Hulbert, editor; Deana Stojković, associate editor
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