A peek into Scotland members' service through COVID-19

The Church in Scotland was recently included with 31 other faiths in giving a report to the Scottish Government, and to Interfaith communities throughout Scotland.

In consultation with Evelyn Liston (Director of Communication, Scotland) and Dr Maureen Sier (Director of Interfaith Scotland), our report was as follows.

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints highlighted that they have, as part of their overall Church programme, a comprehensive emergency plan. This includes food storage programmes, planned programmes where all able-bodied Church members have an assignment to look after others (this is in fact part of a monthly programme even when not in a crisis situation).

“The community are also adept at accessing online connection and in-fact their World Conference was held online with their ‘Prophet’ being able to share globally.  The Tabernacle Choir is also doing online performances.

Donation Day

“The [Church] community also instigated a world fast day for mitigation of COVID-19 and members of other faith communities joined them.  The Church is also working in partnership with other communities (particularly the Muslim community) in the distribution of food to the vulnerable.

“Church members have offered to help as much as they can through phone calls; assigning contacts to keep in touch with people; helping to organise a strategic response to the pandemic.  Some Church buildings are being used to collate and distribute food and other articles to vulnerable and isolated people.

“Involved in partnering with others: the Church has offered to be part of a post-COVID-19 strategic faith-based task force to look at having a national faith-based plan for this sort of thing happening in the future.

“We have been given the opportunity to share many of the Church’s Self Reliance principles with a specific task force in the future.

“The Church's programmes, which empower individuals with 'the ability, commitment, and effort to provide for the spiritual and temporal well-being of ourselves and of our families’, is something we have been invited to share.

“As quoted by Elder Orson F Whitney (1855-1931), ‘God is using more than one people for the accomplishment of His great and marvellous work … It is too vast, too arduous, for any one people.”

“Great things can be accomplished when good people band together and we are grateful for the opportunity to share and participate.”

Edinburgh support refugees

By Roger Curtis

The Church meeting house in Edinburgh, Scotland provides a collection-point for clothing and other supplies to be sorted and packed for shipment one Saturday each month as part of The Refugee in Action (Re-Act) project (see JustServe.org).

React Edinburgh
Edinburgh Meeting House Cultural Hall on Collection Day.

Since their establishment in 2015, Re-Act has sent approximately 1,000 tons of donations to aid refugee camps around the world.  In Edinburgh, support in the form of play groups and language classes, have greatly helped refugee families who live here.

West Fife Support for the Vulnerable

By Helen Goldie

For the past 16 weeks Dunfermline Ward has been working with West Fife Support for the Vulnerable SHIELD project, giving it vital space and helping hands to reach even more people.  A grant from Latter-day Saint Charities, combined with the use of the Dunfermline Ward’s meeting house, and the support of members, have provided vital support allowing West Fife Support for the Vulnerable to change the lives of the local community during COVID-19.

The vision and scope of SHIELD have grown but they will also need to adapt to the future needs of people, as economic challenges increase.  It now has the capability and funds to expand its sphere of influence and support more people and help them overcome the trials they are facing.

Since March 2020 we have:

·      Prepared more than 6,000 cooked meals, a lifeline to those who have disabilities, such as dementia.

·      Supplied weekly food bags to feed roughly 630 people having to make difficult choices between utility bills and feeding themselves.

·      Clothed 91 families from the Ward’s clothing bank.

·      Provided friendship and support, ranging from providing furniture, baby equipment for new mothers, filling in forms for jobs or welfare, or just friendly phone calls.

While lockdown has eased, it has become increasingly clear that hardships are set to increase as job losses increase and economic austerity deepens.  

West Fife Support for the Vulnerable has now secured its own premises, within a local college, and are now focusing on establishing services that can be sustained over time, by promoting self-reliance, community entrepreneurship and unity.  Members of the Dunfermline Ward will continue to support the SHIELD project.  It has been an extremely rewarding experience for many people on their shared journey.  

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Paisley Stake supports university students with other organisations

By Douglas Yates

The COVID-19 pandemic created many challenges for a wide variety of people in Scotland, as with other parts of the world.  Because of the Scottish Government's ‘lockdown’ to limit the spread of the virus, many institutions were closed including universities and their accommodation blocks.  The closing of university accommodation took many by surprise and caused serious difficulties for many international students who were forced to look for alternative housing.

UK students were able to return to their homes, but a significant number of foreign students were stranded, unable to afford repatriation, and forced to use whatever money they had to rent alternate accommodation and consequently struggling to feed themselves because of the lack of funds.

Working with the United Scotland Malayalee Association (USMA), the Association of Indian Organisations (AIO) established the Scottish Indian International Student COVID Crisis Fund.  Teams worked to check the plight of hundreds of students.  Accommodation was sourced for all students affected, and the AIO and USMA also provided cash resources. 

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Cooked meals were made in Gurdwaras and Indian restaurants and delivered to the affected students. The AIO acquired and provided food parcels, enough to last a student for one month, delivered using volunteers from the Indian community. (About £2,000 is being spent each week on the food service.)

In consultation with the Indian Consulate, about 40 students were able to be repatriated. Each week about 100 students receive food assistance. This is likely to continue for many more months until universities begin to return to some sort of normality. Although students are spread throughout Scotland, the majority are in the greater Glasgow area

Dr Mridula Chakraborty, General Secretary of the Association of Indian Organisations, is a member of East Renfrewshire Faith Forum, which is chaired by Douglas A Yates, Director of Communication for Paisley Stake and EQP in Pollok Ward. Because of their friendship, Dr Chakraborty contacted Brother Yates seeking financial help with the project. An immediate transfer of £500 was made from the funds of East Renfrewshire Faith Forum and an application for humanitarian aid from the Church resulted in the grant of $1,067 to the AIO.

Subsequently, the East Renfrewshire Faith Forum donated a further £500 and a local member of the Church made a further personal substantial donation to assist in buying food to ensure that the students don't go hungry.

Speaking of the Church’s humanitarian aid grant, Dr Chakraborty said, “I'm overwhelmed by the generosity of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in helping the AIO to feed and look after the welfare of the international students who found themselves in poverty through no fault of their own.  On behalf of these students, may I say a heartfelt 'Thank You' “