Oxford, 19 January 2017. A team of Sikhs are spreading warmth and kindness this year to some of Oxford’s most vulnerable people.
Sikh Welfare Awareness Team (SWAT) are out on Tuesday nights on Speedwell Street handing out warm blankets, sleeping bags, toothbrushes, hot meals and drinks to the city’s homeless.
Pupinder Ghatora, who runs Woodlands Pharmacy on Botley Road, signed up immediately for the initiative that started two weeks ago.
He said: “It is just what we do as Sikhs, it is part of us to treat everyone with respect and help our fellow man. When I heard about SWAT starting up in Oxford I knew it was something I needed to be a part of. We have a really big problem in this city and we can’t just sit around.
When we were out the first Tuesday I just had a guy come up to me and ask me for a hug because he had not had a hot meal in six months.”
And cooking these fresh hot meals is Botley chef Jav Sahota.
He said: “It is all about good food being good for the soul. I would never serve anyone anything I wouldn’t give to my mum. Food is just the start of someone getting themselves back on track so I hope my cooking can help them.”
Joanne McClements is from Banbury but came to Oxford for the homeless services.
As she tucked into Mr Sahota’s vegetarian shepherd’s pie, the 40-year-old, who has been homeless for a year, said: It is absolutely brilliant. I came last week and they gave me a sleeping bag, which I could share with my friend. They do not know us at all but they are willing to go so far to help us. That is real kindness.”
SWAT was founded in West London in 2008 by Randeep Singh who was appalled at the levels of deprivation and poverty in the area.
The charitable organisation’s first project was a youth club and then in 2009 they discovered 200 people sleeping rough on the streets of Southall.
He said: “I just could not believe it and knew we had to do something about it. It is in our DNA to reach out and be kind to others. We should not forget the most vulnerable people in our society but help them instead. We really hope we can start something big here in Oxford, just like we have in London. ”
One day every week the team are out in different parts of London and now Oxford to help the homeless.
Every year they hold a Christmas party in the Strand, where they feed hundreds of people and hire musicians to play them through the night.
For more information or to get involved contact: