Lent Call Week 3: LewCAS

The Revd Canon Wendy S Robins writes…

In addition to the food banks which the Lent Call is supporting in the Croydon and Kingston Areas, the Lent Call for 2021 is also supporting food banks in the Woolwich Episcopal Area.

Today we are focusing on LewCAS, which is based at St John’s Church, Deptford and which was set up in 1996. Like so many food banks and community outreach initiatives in our parishes, LewCAS began because a group of people saw a need and responded to it. When the Rt Revd Peter Hall was Bishop of Woolwich, his wife, Jill, and other teachers of English to speakers of other languages (ESOL) at Lewisham College realised the difficulties that were being experienced by asylum seekers and took action. The result was LewCAS, which collected food for distribution as well as funds to enable those affected to continue to have access to language lessons. It became a registered charity in 1998 and has now reached its 25th year.

Here is the story of one refugee which LewCAS have shared:

Aster, who comes from Eritrea, has been here more than 10 years, waiting to get her situation regularised. She studied and has a qualification in social care but cannot be legally employed. All this time she has been struggling alone. At one point she spent a month sleeping in a coach station, and nobody asked why she was there or what she needed. She has now been found a host by the Refugee Council and is hugely happy and grateful for this, but she despairs when she thinks about how long she might have to wait before she can stand on her own two feet. She says, ‘You used to be able to get your papers after 10 years, then they made it 14, and now it is 20!’”

And then there is the story of Serges, who does now have papers but remains unable to work because of a technical muddle. His story is dramatic as at one point he was held in a detention centre pending deportation and was even taken onto the plane ready to be deported. An incident occurred which meant that he was taken off the plane and he was eventually released from the detention centre. He now does some work for people from Crofton Park Baptist Church who help to ensure that he has some of what he needs.

This small charity is run from churches in Lewisham and staffed entirely by volunteers. You can hear some more about it on this video.

Like many food banks at this time, the need has expanded and it has been hard for them to make sure that they have enough to provide for all that is needed and they will use any money that they receive as a result of the Bishop’s Lent Call to make sure that they have enough food and other essentials items to distribute.

The work that LewCAS does with refugees is so very important and they make sure through their membership of FareShare that they have fresh produce to share and they join with other organisations to ensure that those in need have winter coats. Occasionally they ask for people to donate furniture, too.

But refugees are not the only ones in need and later in the week we will see videos from Together Southwark’s Lunch Box scheme and learn about how they are helping to ensure that children have meals during school holidays.

Please do consider whether you can show compassion to those who are in need at this time and pray for the work of LewCAS and, if it is possible, donate to the Bishop of Southwark’s Lent Call who will then be able to pass on your help to the those who are in need as they are unable to work and provide for themselves. Thank you.

Here is a prayer for use with the Bishop’s Lent Call

Creator God,
we give thanks for all that you have given to us.
We pray for those who are experiencing food insecurity.
in the places featured in the Lent Call and elsewhere.
Help us to show compassion for them.
Give us the will to work with others to help to bring about change.
Help us to show our care and concern for those around us who are in need.
Bring justice and fullness of life to all your people.
We ask this through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord.
Amen.

Please also read and reflect upon the passage again.

In those days when there was again a great crowd without anything to eat, he called his disciples and said to them, “I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way — and some of them have come from a great distance.” His disciples replied, “How can one feed these people with bread here in the desert?” He asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.” Then he ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground; and he took the seven loaves, and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute; and they distributed them to the crowd. They had also a few small fish; and after blessing them, he ordered that these too should be distributed. They ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full.    Mark 8. 1-8

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