Andy and Sharon’s Story
Luton, in Bedfordshire, is one of the most populated towns to not have city status in the UK. It has high levels of deprivation, with a recent report by the local council claiming nearly half the children in the borough are growing up in poverty. The TLG Make Lunch club at St John the Baptist, Farley Hill, run by Coordinator Katja and her volunteers, is providing a vital lifeline for many families in the area during the school holidays.
Reuben, Shama and their two children, 15-year-old Sharon and 6-year-old Andy, are one of the many families who have been supported by the TLG Make Lunch club since they first attended in September 2016. Their lives were so transformed by the club that they decided they still wanted to come, but as volunteers.
The family spoke to TLG about how the TLG Make Lunch club helped them and how they love being part of their local church community.
How has TLG Make Lunch helped your family?
It has helped us tremendously. When we started coming to TLG Make Lunch we were struggling financially because we were not allowed to work due to our immigration situation. Feeding our two children three meals every day was challenging, especially during the school holidays.
The first time we came everyone was so welcoming and encouraging. TLG Make Lunch club gave the children hot meals and even gave food to us. We learnt so many new recipes to cook for our children at home, how to minimise food waste and how to cook on a budget.
The children would not only look forward to eating their favourite meals, but getting involved in cooking it. They also played various games and learned arts and crafts.
What difference has TLG Make Lunch made to your family?
TLG Make Lunch has made a huge difference in our lives. We just love to be there. When we couldn’t work because of our unresolved immigration situation, it gave us incredible satisfaction and pleasure to be able to do something for the community.
What is your favourite part of TLG Make Lunch?
We enjoy volunteering and it is great to see the children’s little hands cutting, chopping, cooking and baking with the help of the adults. It’s so satisfying to see so many children coming, many from poorer backgrounds, cooking their meals and eating them together. I think the experience is just priceless.
What makes you keep coming back to TLG Make Lunch?
The main reason we keep coming back is the feeling of joy we receive here. Now our immigration situation has been resolved, we are not struggling financially. However, the happy faces of the children are the main attraction for us to keep coming back. It also gives us a lot of satisfaction to be able to do something for the underprivileged members of our community. It gives us the feeling of fulfilment in our faith, as we learn in the Bible to help and support those who are in need.
What difference have you noticed in your children since coming to TLG Make Lunch?
There is a huge difference in our children, they are much more confident now. They love to take part in cooking at home and are always asking us to make the things at home that they had at TLG Make Lunch club. They happily help in preparing the vegetables and fruits at home and just love baking! Sharon can now make so many things at home independently including pancakes, cookies, cakes, pasta, salads etc. Andy loves to offer his little helping hands too.
I know from Katja that you are involved in the church now in many ways – in the band, in junior church, cleaning and gardening, welcoming and refreshments, just in any way you can help. What inspired you to get so involved?
Our church family is lovely and it is a small church so we want to do our bit and help. It gives us a lot of joy to help others and be involved in any way we can. We see it as practising what we preach too. God has been amazing in our lives and we want to give something back to Him for what He has done for us.
You mentioned that coming to St John’s Farley Hill, through the TLG Make Lunch club, has renewed your faith. Can you tell me a bit more about that?
Our faith has been totally renewed and reinvigorated. Shama was re-baptised, having first been baptised when younger, as a symbol of how stronger we feel in our faith. The church has helped us grow so much spiritually, as well as the practical help we have received. When we first came to Luton we were not happy and had struggled in our previous church. At the time we did not understand why we came to Luton but now we look back and praise God for bringing us here and to this church. Katja and her husband Rob especially have walked with us and helped us time and time again – they are amazing friends.
Finally, to Andy and Sharon, what is your favourite thing about TLG Make Lunch?
Andy - My favourite thing is the volunteers who help out there. They put their efforts to make us feel special.
Sharon - It’s not easy to feed and help so many kids, they are really doing an amazing job. May God bless them.
Katja, the Make Lunch Coordinator, acknowledged how the family is now such a central part of the church community. They are always the first at church and the first to volunteer to help with anything. She summed it up as ‘I can’t imagine church without them’.
TLG Make Lunch clubs are run during through holidays to provide those families who rely on free school meals during the school term with a hot and healthy meal. Make Lunch clubs across the UK we meet families who are on a low budget. The reasons for being on a low budget are varied and many can be linked to the same domains of deprivation used in the indices of multiple deprivation. This can include unemployment, caring for a family member with ill health or family breakdown. As well as poverty, the families regularly are also dealing with other issues linked to the indicis of multiple deprivation such as housing, health and personal debt.
Find out more about TLG Make Lunch here