Telford faith council's work to help communities during lockdown

An interfaith council is looking back on a lockdown period that saw it hand out hundreds of food parcels.

Cllr Raj Mehta
Cllr Raj Mehta

Telford & Wrekin Interfaith Council (TWIC) was set up by borough councillor Raj Mehta. During his term as mayor in 2018, he identified a gap between younger and older people in the borough and set up the Building Bridges project, which would later lead to the foundation of the interfaith council.

It was constituted as a charitable community group on April 23 this year, with the coronavirus crisis already in full effect. Councillor Mehta and the council felt that the group could help families affected by the pandemic, and linked up with Telford Crisis Support's food bank service.

Working with the food bank, the TWIC delivered 185 food parcels in the weeks to follow in partnership with the Telford & Wrekin Council crisis team.

They went further, and with the help of many donations of food from residents, from a multitude of faith groups, and from organisations like the Amir Khan Foundation, the TWIC delivered 263 food parcels alongside the ones delivered on behalf of the food bank. Seventy per of those were delivered to members of the BAME community.

The TWIC team was not done, and they partnered with the borough council to provide breakfast to families whose children were in receipt of free school meals within the Hadley & Leegomery, Arleston, and College wards.

Members of Interfaith Council delivering food parcels

They started delivering those parcels from June 20, partnering with the Arleston Community Centre and the Leegate Centre to have bases of operation where parcels could be collected. They also offered a delivery service manned by members of the Oakengates Sikh Temple to those families who had no way of collecting the breakfast parcels for their children.

Funding was secured from various organisations including West Mercia's Police and Crime Commissioner, Telford & Wrekin Council, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Community Foundation for Staffordshire, while food was donated by faith groups.

To date, the TWIC has provided 1,357 weeks’ worth of breakfasts to children. Their service will continue until the October half term and has been expanded to cover a further eight wards.

When Arleston and College wards needed an organisation to deliver the borough council's Holiday Activity & Eat Well (HAEW) Project safely and with social distancing, they stepped up again. The TWIC worked with the Leegate Centre to create and deliver activity sheets and online cookery sessions (ingredients provided) so that children within the two wards had access to activities and ideas during the summer holidays.

They also provided footballs, colouring pencils, and disposable cameras to add to the range of activities that these children could take part in. During the six weeks of summer holidays, 49 children benefited from the HAEW Project.

Now the group has bought a minibus and is establishing its website, ready to take on whatever project they can help with next.

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