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Stratford church helps homeless with hot food and health care at Christmas lunch

PUBLISHED: 17:00 23 December 2019

People helping out at Stratford's Rock Church. Long-time volunteer Murima Thodi is third from the left, Pastor Gbenga Ajewole is centre and chief of staff Debbie Aremu is third from the right. Picture: Luke Acton.

People helping out at Stratford's Rock Church. Long-time volunteer Murima Thodi is third from the left, Pastor Gbenga Ajewole is centre and chief of staff Debbie Aremu is third from the right. Picture: Luke Acton.

Archant

A church in Stratford welcomed in the homeless to enjoy fun and games and share the Christmas spirit.

A volunteer helping prepare the food. Picture: Luke Acton.A volunteer helping prepare the food. Picture: Luke Acton.

The Rock Church on the High Street opened its doors to the vulnerable people for six hours on Friday, December 20.

It played films, offered hot food and drinks and was a chance to out of the cold.

Church volunteers regularly deliver care packages to rough sleepers, but they decided to bring them in for the first ever charity Christmas lunch at the venue.

"We're just trying to give a little bit of Christmas cheer to people who might not have a traditional Christmas dinner," said Debbie Aremu, chief of staff at the church.

The Rock Church's musical director Khalil Madovi at the keys. Picture: Luke Acton.The Rock Church's musical director Khalil Madovi at the keys. Picture: Luke Acton.

By around 2pm, 15 to 20 had already visited, according to Ms Aremu.

"We just want to reach people and give them hope and transform people's lives," she added.

"It's making people feel loved.

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"We're going to give you hugs, talk to you about life and let you know that people do love [you]."

As well as some home comforts, dentist Ruth Baidoo volunteered her time to give some oral health advice and direct people to places for free dental care.

The dentist said she frequently sees fractured teeth and gum disease in homeless people.

To help the problem and hopefully stop it from getting that bad in the first place, she gives out free bags of toiletries like toothpaste and toothbrushes.

Dentist Ruth Baidoo gave homeless people dental advice and told them where they could get free treatment. Picture: Luke Acton.Dentist Ruth Baidoo gave homeless people dental advice and told them where they could get free treatment. Picture: Luke Acton.

Ruth Baidoo added poor dental health can mean pain, but also problems eating and poor confidence - possibly impacting someone's ability to secure a job.

The church offers food and medical support, but emotional and spiritual support is also a priority.

Pastor Gbenga Ajewole leads the Stratford congregation: "We have an obligation and passion to help people who don't experience that love and that grace - to give that to them.

"It's heartbreaking, so to be able to do a very small part - it helps a least one person, it puts a smile on one person's face.

"That's what the world needs.

"It's not just a season to put presents under tree, but to spread love and hope."


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