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Charity appeals for donations and volunteers to help feed Stratford's homeless

PUBLISHED: 17:57 21 November 2019 | UPDATED: 17:57 21 November 2019

A Seva Street group huddle before serving food. Volunteers begin with the call-and-response: “What do we do? Selfless service. Who are we? Seva Street.” Picture: Luke Acton.

A Seva Street group huddle before serving food. Volunteers begin with the call-and-response: "What do we do? Selfless service. Who are we? Seva Street." Picture: Luke Acton.

Luke Acton

A charity is appealing for donations to help feed Stratford's homeless this Christmas.

The chairty offers clothes as well as food to the homeless. Picture: Luke Acton.The chairty offers clothes as well as food to the homeless. Picture: Luke Acton.

Seva Street feeds around 200 people every Wednesday in Stratford shopping centre with vegan food prepared in kitchens around east London.

It wants new toiletries, towels, flasks, winter clothes, underwear and sleeping bags - and people to volunteer their time to the cause.

"What we really want to do is help people get off the streets," said Seva Street's founder and chair Sukhjit Ahluwalia. "But we realise that's quite a big task in itself, so there's steps to get there.

"Going onto the streets and giving out food makes a small difference, but it also helps us understand what the needs are."

Volunteers preparing food in Stratford Shopping Centre. Picture: Luke Acton.Volunteers preparing food in Stratford Shopping Centre. Picture: Luke Acton.

Sukhjit first started this work in March 2018 in Queens Market. He's been feeding people ever since.

"As time went on," he said, "I started to realise the need for food was huge."

According to Sukhjit, the word "seva" means "selfless service" in Sanskrit.

The name helps direct the people who dedicate their time to the charity. Volunteers begin their work with a bellowing call-and-response: "What do we do? Selfless service. Who are we? Seva Street."

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The charity offers new clothes and even a nail service, as well as food.

"Everything is of a high quality because it's about dignity back to these people," said Sukhjit.

"If we display the food and give the food with love and without judgement, we're helping them know they're understood."

Seva Street's founder wants to grow the charity's reach and help the homeless of the street by teaching life skills.

"What we want to do is show them that they can help themselves. They'll have a tool set to deal with issues that they can use throughout their lives.

A solicitor by day, Sukhjit's work with Seva Street comes from a sense of duty: "I believe the community has a responsibility. It isn't good [enough] just saying that the government or the council should do something about it. I believe we all have a responsibility.

"It's not someone else's problem, it's our problem."

At least 20-35 volunteers every Wednesday agree with him.

"That's not a person, that's a team of good hearted individuals who are committed."

More information can be found at sevastreet.org.

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