The Salvation Army receives 10,000 letters every year. Maj. Martin Hill tells Paul that every single one will get a Response. Paul chooses a Letter from a mum worried about her daughter. Sarah is a Teacher’s assistant with three kids. She is living in Poverty despite this and has to rely on food banks to fed her family.
There are now One thousand Food banks across the country.
Captains Emma and Matthew welcome Paul to the one in Croydon, where Sarah visits. Here even the local school makes donations and the shelves are well stocked, particularly with Baked Beans of which there appears to be a glut!
The Salvation Army has been Feeding people since their inception.Through both World Wars and also working constantly in food kitchens’s for the homeless . Food Banks though are a relative new project, the first in the UK set up in 2000, now seven Hundred Salvation Army sponsored sites give emergency food from community churches and the recipients are now far more likely to be working people who are struggling to feed their families, rather than the stereo typical idea of addicts and benefits recipients.
Emma and Matthew are at pains to stress that there should be no shame in approaching a Food bank for assistance.
Paul and Sarah sit down for a well deserved cuppa. Sarah’s problems started eight years ago, she spilt from her partner who left her. She fell into rent arrears and had to be evicted, she was placed in bed and breakfast for six months,three months of which was in a single room with her three children. When one day she could not even afford Milk and bread. She broke down and approached the Food Bank. She says she had been given pause because she was Proud, but also because she was working and getting some state assistance, she felt there were many people in more need than her.
The food parcel she receives costs about £40 for her family of four. She has learnt to stretch the provision by drinking hot chocolate and tea and eating porridge to suppress her own hunger so she can skip meals to ensure the children get the most from the parcel.
When you consider that TB has returned to the UK and people are becoming prey to malnutrition, you realised that Modern Britain is no better of than the time of the Victorians and the reason the Army was started in the first place.
Jo is very pleased with Paul for stopping Sarah from feeling that shame and for the way he treats her with Respect so she can maintain her Dignity.
After meeting the Commissioner in Central London, Paul is tasked with getting involved with some of the most harrowing work he might have to face in this whole project.
Greece and the Refugee Crisis.
Paul and Captain Jo have been despatched to Athens to see the reality of the effect the Refugee Crisis is having on the already poor country, who are weathering their own financial Crisis whilst still dealing with the crisis of the sea of Humanity pouring into the country by the thousands every day.
They had been told to be prepared, but I do not think either of them were fully cognisant of what they were about to encounter.
Three Thousand people are coming into Greece and many congregate at Victoria Square, escaping Syria and Afghanistan and getting some respite before travelling onwards.
Almost from the moment they touch down, they join Maj. Maria Galinou and her team of volunteers who are making up packets of sandwiches for the families on the square, simple bread , cheese and meat sandwiches are a lifeline for these desperate folk ,just seeking rest before travelling on.
The team make about 1000 sandwiches daily and have been for the last six months. Maria tells Paul that they mostly aim to get to Sweden and Germany. She says very few are planning on coming into the UK, rather debunking the common misconception that we are about to be inundated by hordes.
Putting himself in their position, Paul cannot even fathom putting himself in the path of traffickers and being separated from family and friends.
There are two working Toilets and only one place with running water. Maria smiles, she has the Lord so she does not despair, but Paul thinks they will need more than Faith to get through the day. As soon as they enter the square there is a Tense atmosphere, maybe the people are not used to kindness. All these people are Sleeping, eating and having to use the toilet in 72 degree heat. Paul spies a small baby on a bench.
Another family from Afghanistan saw members beheaded, it took strength to travel this far, but with violent death as an alternative, I see the reason they are willing to journey on.
A third man has five kids, none of them have eaten for two nights.
Once the supply of sandwiches has been exhausted. Maria gets milk from the car and the scramble from young Fathers getting milk for small children is heartbreaking. Babies and small children are everywhere in the square and the sheer number of kids, hits Paul hardest.
The volunteers want to return some joy to these little faces and donations from home are a lovely way to do that. They are given little rucksacks and gifts donated by British kids, little notes inside say things like , “we are thinking of you “and “good luck “and the simplicity of the gifts is really touching, they are things we take for granted here in the UK. Little socks, biscuits, dolls and teddies. Their little faces are so moving, even when it is crayons or toothbrushes. To Paul it seems like a pebble in the ocean, but I can see the merit in raising just one smile in these awful circumstances.
It is easy to forget this is Athens, the capital.People going about their business, eating in the restaurants and going to work as usual as the crisis unfolds in their midst. One woman is very vocal in her anger at having “Strangers” in the square, she wants Refugees and volunteers alike to leave and Paul is not backward in coming forward in expressing his frustration at her railing.
Even stalwart, Cheerful, Chatty Captain Jo cannot help but be affected by the situations some of these people have come from and are willing to trial under to protect their families from worse at home. She is upset by the aggression from Greeks telling the Refugees to go home. She asks how we would feel if something were to befall the United Kingdom, wouldn’t we expect to be taken in, given refuge, treated as human beings?
Paul explains it perfectly, these are not rats or cockroaches, but human beings with hopes and dreams. They do not want to leave their homes to be treated as detritus and something to be feared or worse Loathed, they just want safety for their families.
Paul has yet again shown how large his heart is and proven that his gift for making people comfortable is boundless.
The Subjects of food banks and the Migrant Crisis in Greece are topics I have touched before here at Screenwipe. Links to those are included below should the inclination be yours to learn more..