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200,000 hot meals served during pandemic

Ginda Basra talking to Novus Rotary

Sewa — the Punjabi word for Service — was at the heart of Novus Rotary’s meeting on May 13 when Ginda Basra gave members a taste of what Midlands Langar Sewa Society does.

Langar is the tradition, started by the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak, which involves giving free food to people regardless of religion, caste, gender, economic status or ethnicity. Ginda explained that the Midlands Society started in Walsall in 2013 serving meals to 13 people every week.

Now it has volunteers working in 28 localities across the UK. In Leicester six years ago Ginda and his team started feeding about 100-150 homeless people in the city’s market one evening a week. It grew and grew so now on five night each week the group feeds all-comers.

Not content to rest on their laurels, the volunteers developed an outreach team to help people in the greatest need — particularly the homeless with mental and other health issues. The recipients get a bottle of water, a vegetarian meal and roti, crisps and biscuits.

Despite the impact of the pandemic lockdown, volunteers also deliver to homeless people temporarily living in hotels and hostels toiletries, clothes and shoes. The volunteers also offer help and advice on Universal Credit and other benefits.

Ginda paid tribute to the help the society gets from supermarket Morrisons, and the restaurant-owning family in Belgrave who have provided storage space for donated items.

He also praised the society’s volunteers. There are about 80 or 90, of whom about 12-15 are able to help regularly.

One area of service (sewa) needing more volunteers, said Ginda, is the recent innovation of delivering hot food to needy families every Sunday between 3pm and 4pm. Several Rotary members said they would look at the society’s website https://www.midlandlangarseva.org/ to learn more about volunteering.

Ginda said: “We don’t do it for the recognition (the charity was named Charity of the Year and one volunteer was chosen as Volunteer of the Year).There are no words to describe the words we get. This is in our blood now.

“You can see the pain and hunger in the eyes of the 200-250 people coming every week.”

Novus Rotarians listening to Ginda

After Ginda’s talk, members heard visitor Kirit Mistry talk about his charity SAHA – South Asian Health Action and the work it has been doing during Mental Health Week (May 10-16). Kirit said the charity is developing a network of ambassadors who can help people from a south Asian background with mental health problems. He explained how important it was for them to be helped by people from a similar background and culture who could share the same languages.

At the end of the meeting several members, along with John Young, who lives in Leicester but is a member of the Rotary Club of Coventry Jubilee, shared their memories and views of Volunteer Expo. This Rotary-led two-day conference was to have been held at the NEC Birmingham until the pandemic forced a change to an online webinar.

Sixty volunteer organisations were represented, each with experts available for chats during half-hour workshops, with downloadable ‘handouts’ and videos.

They remain available for download for another three weeks, as are the headline talks from former boxer Frank Bruno, wheelchair-using TV presenters Steve Brown and Ben Fogle and EastEnders actress Brooke Kinsella who campaigns against knife crime since her brother was killed in a street attack.

You can see what you missed (or see it for the first time) by clicking on this link https://www.volunteerexpo.co.uk/programme/

Last edited: 23:45 on Thursday, May 13, 2021