For 30 years, about 160 homeless people in Central London were served a fully cooked and wholesome lunch every week. Early every Sunday morning, our volunteers would cook vegetarian meals of rice and a mild vegetable curry in their homes, which they would pack in individual portions, together with a drink and some fresh fruit. They would then deliver the food parcels to the temple and designated volunteer drivers would deliver the food parcels to 3 drop-off points in Central London, where the homeless are cared for regularly. Our work with the homeless continues with volunteers cooking at the Spires in Tooting Bec., and a new project is currently in the pipeline.
Meals on Wheels
In conjunction with the Merton and Morden Guild of Social Services, our volunteers act as drivers or escorts for the distribution of meals for the elderly and handicapped in the borough.
About twenty years ago, we started making approx. 35-40 large hampers containing food and toiletries for local elderly residents.
Homecare Services, who would then deliver them on our behalf to the most vulnerable elderly people in the borough. The numbers of hampers given have steadily risen over the years to about 150 each year.
When the numbers of hampers exceeded the need of Merton Council the extra hampers were given to Age UK Mitcham to distribute to their most deserving members.
Twice a year, our Sai Spiritual Education children would collect new books, toys and art materials, which were given to under privileged children at Family Centres run by Action for Children in Central London. Over the years, this project has expanded to help other children’s charities.
In conjunction with the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers and Merton Council’s “Gping for Green” Projects, our volunteers have done regular conservation projects for over twenty years, including tree planting, flower bulb planting in local parks and forests, recycling and also an on-going project of clearing and maintaining a section of the River Wandle.
Our adults and youth were also active members of Merton Council’s Graffitti Task Force that went out regularly to remove unsightly graffiti that blighted our local parks.
In addition, to these projects every year, the volunteers also help with cleaning projects within the residential areas surrounding the Temple. We help with clearing the alleyways of local elderly residents and others who struggle with regular maintenance of these shared community areas.
We have a large Sunday School (Sai Spiritual Education Classes), which is attended by children ranging from – years of age. The classes are run by volunteer teachers who teach the children about Hinduism and the other major religions of the world, and also about the Human Values of Truth, Love, Peace, Non – violence and Right Conduct. We also celebrate at least one festival from each of the major religions. eg: Christmas of Christianity and always look forward to the children’s nativity play. As part of their spiritual and moral education, we believe in fostering in them the urge to help others. So the children regularly visit local old peoples homes and hospitals to entertain the patients whit music and dance performances, followed by refreshments made and served by our volunteers. In past times, volunteers have also helped to run classes for Hindu children who come to the Temple, to learn traditional devotional Hindu songs, prayers and to learn more about their faith and traditions.
We have organised large blood donation sessions in central London for the devotees to attend.We have now also started registering our devotees for the National bone marrow programme, to help those suffering from leukaemia and aplastic anaemia. To date, we have been able to donate 537 units of blood.
Spectacles for Vision Aid
For many years, our volunteers have collected old and unwanted spectacles from devotees. These would then be cleaned, sorted and sent to “Vision Aid” who used these spectacles to restore good eyesight to the needy all over the world. In total, about 600 spectacles were donated.
Entertaining the Elderly
Every 4 months, about 50 local elderly citizens from Merton and Wandsworth are invited to the Temple for an afternoon of fun and entertainment provided by our children and youth, with tea and food specially prepared by our volunteers. These afternoons are very successful and are enjoyed by young and old alike .
Our group is also very active in local interfaith organisations, hosting and providing support for interfaith programmes at a local and at a national level, and always ready to provide teachers and resources on Hinduism for students & teachers etc.
We have also appeared on BBC Radio and the World Service, regarding various aspects of faith and spirituality.
A major community role that we fulfil is that the Temple has been recognised as a place of excellence for schools to visit as part of their teaching of Hinduism in the Religious Education Curriculum. Experienced teachers provide tours of the Temple, run workshops and practical demonstrations for local
schools, teacher training colleges, interfaith groups and other religious organisations, and we have at least 3000 children from nurseries, schools, 6th form colleges and universities visiting us each year.
For the last nine years, our volunteers have been serving as Hindu Chaplains at Croydon University Hospital. Under the guidance and training of the Hospital Chaplain, Rev. Hilary Fife, the Hindu Chaplains visit Hindu patients, to help bring comfort and a friendly ear, when they ate feeling very vulnerable. A few also help with end of life stage Hindu ceremonies and help families cope with sudden bereavement. Within the Hindu community, some of our volunteers also visit the homes of families who have recently lost loved ones and provide devotional singing and vital help during funerals and other end of life ceremonies.