Primary school serves up Christmas joy at dinner for homeless

PUBLISHED: 12:00 24 December 2018

Cooks John Hopkins, Ida Owusu, Doris Owusu Sekiuree and Manna Tesfamichael. Picture: Tilly Armstrong

Cooks John Hopkins, Ida Owusu, Doris Owusu Sekiuree and Manna Tesfamichael. Picture: Tilly Armstrong

Tilly Armstrong

St Luke’s Primary School opened its doors to host a Christmas dinner for the homeless.

Volunteer Rafaella Ravaioli and her son Stefano Mugarura. Picture: Tilly ArmstrongVolunteer Rafaella Ravaioli and her son Stefano Mugarura. Picture: Tilly Armstrong

The Ruscoe Road, Canning Town school welcomed homeless and vulnerable people from across Newham for a roast with all the trimmings, with some visitors such as Bob, 71, coming back for the second year in a row.

Volunteers also gave out donations of hats and scarves, basic necessities and sanitary products for women.

St Luke’s choir raised funds for the event by carol singing for shoppers outside Waitrose supermarket in Canary Wharf earlier this month.

The children raised more than £820 in just an hour and a half – which was then topped off with a further £350 donation from the supermarket – to buy gifts which were handed out to those in need on Friday afternoon.

Headteacher Matt Hipperson explained how the children at the school spread news of the event through leafleting at churches and centres in the area where the homeless population gather for meals.

He said that they would save any leftovers to avoid food – donated by local catering company Juniper Ventures – going to waste. “I will give it out at the Stratford centre this evening,” he said.

St Luke’s staff were joined by Lola’s Homeless, a community group providing practical support and advice to rough sleepers, who helped greet visitors and hand out handmade Christmas cards made by the school’s charitable pupils.

Volunteer Raffaella Ravaioli, 46, who was joined by her seven-year-old son Stefano Mugarura, said: “We want people feel comfortable and feel like it’s Christmas.”

Founder of Lola’s Homeless, Lorraine Tabone, said how important events such as this one are in Newham, which has been classed as England’s homelessness hotspot.

“People can’t get help anywhere. I hope the council will get involved, especially if people are dying.”

On Wednesday, the Office for National Statistics released data which estimated that a total of 646 homeless people have died in the capital in the last five years.

Cllr Julianne Marriot, cabinet member for education, who attended the festive event said: “The children and staff worked incredibly hard to raise money to buy essentials for people who are homeless, and used the event to think about what it means to not have a home where you feel safe.”

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