As millions of Britons enjoy their annual Christmas break with family gatherings and other festivities, thousands of people across the country will be doing their bit for those who find themselves isolated at this time of year. Among those volunteering to help are British Turks.
A Turkish restaurant in Leicester is today offering free meals to the homeless and the elderly. According to a story in the Leicester Mercury, the manager of Saray Mangal, was once homeless himself so knows how important it is to extend a hand to those who most need it.
Saray Mangal on Highfield Street is one of many opening their doors today to ensure ‘no one eats alone this Christmas’. The authentic Turkish grill and meze house hopes its kindness will inspire others to “care for each other no matter what religion, race, culture of language.”
Bailey’s Fish and Chip shop, a Turkish-owned business in a small market town in Norfolk, is also remaining open this Christmas to dish out free meals to local care homes and anyone else who visits them. The shop threw open its doors last Christmas and as news travelled, the Diss-based business on Shelfanger Road received huge praise not just locally, but from around the country and abroad.
This year, the owners Cengiz Bolat and Cemal Kayguszuz, decided to continue with this act of kindness. Talking to their local paper, the Diss Mercury, Mr Bolat said: “We just wanted to give people who may be alone at Christmas that special feeling.”
The 42-year-old Turkish entrepreneur added, “We want to give something back to the community after they support us so much. We want to invite people in over Christmas and give something back to by opening the shop for them.” The fish and chippie is open to all visitors today from 3pm to 8pm.
In London, the Turkish Cypriot Community Association (TCCA) and the Cyprus Islamic Association (CIA) were also busy in the run-up to Christmas. Erim Metto and Husayn Hashim El Bakayi, the heads of the two organisations, co-ordinated a superb effort involving dozens of people who collected items from the local community that were then distributed to homeless people in the capital last week.
TCCA-CIA Christmas appeal: “Over a two-day period, we were able to feed over 140 homeless/rough sleepers [and] we provided 40 separate people with essential packs”
Their joint initiative included raising cash for homeless charity Crisis and organising donations of clothing (such as hats, scarves, jumpers, and thermal wear), along with blankets, toiletries and other essentials. They also asked local takeaways and restaurants to donate food and drink. As news spread, others in the community got involved too. A local church also contributed food parcels, while CIA volunteers offered to cook dinner, producing enough meals to feed some 80 people.
TCCA and CIA arranged for drop-off points across North and East London, allowing community members to donate conveniently at community centres local to them. Some donors chose to give cash, allowing the TCCA to buy new socks and underwear for recipients.
Once collected, all the donated items were transported to the TCCA building in Harringay, where they were assembled into bags ready for distribution. Over two nights – 21st and 22nd December – volunteers from the two organisations hit the streets of North and Central London, targeting areas known for their homeless populations, giving out bags full of donated items, along with hot food and drinks.
Posting on Facebook afterwards, the TCCA which this year is celebrating its fortieth anniversary, wrote: “Over a two-day period, we were able to feed over 140 homeless/rough sleepers, we provided 40 separate people with essential packs including toiletries, blankets, clothing, socks, underwear, hats and gloves and the Just Giving appeal will help 18 people with housing, access to dentistry, advice and employment support.”
“We would like to thank those who participated in particular Erim Metto, Husayn Hashim El Bakayi, Ayse Bekir, Robbi Stevens, Sule Inci, Sevtap Kemal, Osman Hassan, Green Lanes Cafe, Cyprus House, Selale Resturant, SAMA, all those who donated, and the others that we have forgot to mention.”
Those who would still like to give, it’s not too late! TCCA’s Christmas crowdfunding appeal for the homeless runs through to the first week of January. At the time of writing, they are £44 off their £522 target. All sums raised will be given to homeless charity Crisis. Use this Justgiving link to visit their page to make a donation.