Throughout October and November 2021, volunteers and members of the Hyde Park Stake set up the only full-scale Distribution Centre in the London borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Working alongside Mutual Aid, the Centre was to serve refugees from all cultures and walks of life. Those who came to the Centre were able to stock up on warm clothing in time for the winter. Such an effort required the hard work and coordination of many volunteers. Such efforts would be repaid by serving nearly 1,400 people.
Volunteer Amy Stobbs, from Hyde Park 1st Ward, writes:
“What I loved about working on the volunteering team at the Hyde Park Distribution Centre was the spirit of Christ that was there daily.
“When I heard about the opportunity to help my friend Candace, who was leading the whole project, to set the Distribution Centre up in the basement of the chapel I jumped right in! In the past the only service I could give to the refugees was putting hygiene kits together. Now I was getting a chance to set up a centre for them and help them face-to-face.
“From the very first day of setting up the Centre to the last, the volunteers that have willingly come in have amazed me. I was in charge of the volunteers, and I learned so much from the different people I worked with. Volunteers from every background come in. There were a good group of members from the Stake but also many women and men who immigrated themselves 20 years ago from the Middle East and were now coming in everyday to help the refugees in their own languages, out of the good of their hearts.
“About 20 to 30 families would come in each day to get clothes. Seeing them come in was such a humbling experience. You can see in their eyes that they were good people. It was a blessing to let them take what they needed and see them leaving with a smile on their faces.
“My son, James (who is 2 years old), loved coming and serving with me. He would sit next to the kid toys and when a refugee child would come in, he would get up and play with them. He was so comfortable there.
“When there would be ‘down time’ at the centre, the volunteers would sit down on the sofas and chat. We talked about religion, culture, family, etc. Sometimes I was the only member of the Church in these discussions, and it was very enriching to learn from Catholics, Muslims, and Atheists, from every corner of the world that served by my side. There is so much we can learn from one another and there are more similarities than we think! These volunteers meant the world to me, and I love what each one has taught me about love.
“By the end of the five weeks of the project to meet the immediate needs of the Afghan refugees in the Borough, we had served over 1,000 families. One family stood out to me that came in. They were a humble family placed in a hotel not far from there. As they came in, they seemed like every other refugee that normally comes through. The dad pulled me aside and asked me if he could in return also volunteer to help us. He said he has no job and with the time he had, he would like to help others and give back. My heart filled with warmth. Here he had nothing and yet wanted to give the little that he had.
“I have learned so many things I will never forget. Even at the ‘Thank You Dinner’ for the volunteers I sat next to extraordinary people from around the world from different religions that were the kindest people I have ever met. I found Christ in those around me who are not members of the Church. I am forever grateful for the opportunity I had to participate in the project.”