BUILDING BRIDGES: Help those close to home

Reasons to give extend beyond holiday season, writes columnist Taslim Jaffer

On Friday afternoon, the two older kids and I set up a very sophisticated peanut-butter-and-jam-sandwich making system on the kitchen island.

Once the towers of sandwiches were wrapped, we piled them carefully into a cloth shopping bag. In another cloth bag, we tossed a bag of mandarin oranges and a couple boxes of cereal bars.

We were all set for the next day.

At the beginning of this year, the five of us had sat down and made a list of ways we could feed hungry people. Aside from dropping off food at the Surrey Food Bank and adding $2 to our grocery bill every week at Save-On Foods, we decided we wanted to get involved with the Interfaith Food and Clothing Ministry.

My husband and I loved the idea of supporting close to home; we have our own ‘downtown eastside’ right here in Surrey. And, of course, an interfaith group that is open to people of all backgrounds including atheist and agnostic beliefs is something we feel can only bring a community closer together.

Well, here it was, November, and we still hadn’t made it out to 135A Street in Surrey, at the corner of 106 Avenue, where the Interfaith Food and Clothing Ministry meets on the first, third and fifth Saturday of the month.

As if cramming for a final exam, we circled the date on the calendar and contacted the co-ordinator, Arun Chatterjee, by email. He encouraged us to bring dry pre-packaged foods for ease of delivering.

When we arrived at the meeting area, I expected to see… well, a whole committee of people packing their foods in the brown bags that Arun was providing. But it was just Arun and his children – though I was happy to hear that roughly 15 to 20 families are involved in the program, and they have even had support from local businesses that provide food.

Arun and his family have not missed a delivery day in the five years since they started this program – an idea that came to him and his wife out of the simple desire to serve others.

His children have literally grown up visiting the streets, thoughtfully shopping for and packaging meals for the hungry. They happily got my kids involved in bagging and soon we were a real team, mostly run by the children.

Once all the brown bags were full of sandwiches, samosas, granola bars, mandarins, chips and juice boxes, our two families walked over to where people were sitting or lying down near their few possessions.

Some walked up to us with grateful smiles, looked at my kids and expressed their thanks.

We weren’t the only ones delivering food. Someone was serving a hot Indian meal from the back of their truck, while others handed out water bottles as they walked around.

It was moving and even sacred.

I am telling you about this for many reasons. Just a gentle reminder that social issues permeate our own backyard. Also, that people are hungry all year ‘round, so while the Christmas season brings out the best of us, we must remember that the rest of the year needs our hearts, too.

And, finally, I am inspired out of my mind by a South Surrey husband-and-wife team who, along with their compassionate children, decided to take action where they saw a problem. And their action involves bringing together a diverse community of people – the people of Surrey – to show us that our differences don’t matter when people’s bellies are empty.

Arun beautifully describes this ministry as, “a place to stand beside the most vulnerable and marginalized people of our own community. A place to have a chat with them and share each other’s story. A place to experience our own vulnerability, fear and judgments and gradual freedom from them. A place to discover our collective humanity one Saturday at a time. A place to let your spirit unfold and get inspired to follow your own calling.”

Homelessness and poverty are greater issues that cannot be solved by handing out food. I recognize this.

And I hope that in 2017, I can move beyond ‘Band-Aid’ solutions and lobby for long-term support.

In the meantime, I was raised to never let someone go hungry if I could help it.

And through this ministry’s effort, I may be able to pass down that teaching to my own kids.

If you would like to learn more about the Interfaith Food and Clothing Ministry, please email Arun at arunavc@hotmail.com

Columnist Taslim Jaffer writes monthly on multicultural connections.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson leaves the assembly with Premier John Horgan after the budget speech Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Finance minister says B.C. ‘absolutely committed’ to Surrey-Langley SkyTrain project

Finance Minister Selina Robinson did a post-budget breakdown with the Surrey Board of Trade

B.C.’s public health restrictions on non-essential travel are reinforced by orders effective April 23, 2021 to stay within your own regional health authority except for essential travel such as work and medical appointmens. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 non-essential travel ban takes effect, $575 fines approved

Checks on highways, ferries between Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island, Interior

White Rock council say closure of the city’s pier, promenade and parking lots are not under consideration at this time, but have approved other COVID-19 options for the waterfront including stepped-up RCMP patrols that are already part of detachment planning. (Aaron Hinks photo)
White Rock pier, promenade, parking lot closures off the table – for now

Council members warn decision subject to future provincial health orders

It remains to be seen how tourism dollars announced this week will help in White Rock. (Sterling Cunningham file photo)
White Rock officials question if tourism relief will come soon enough

For business, budget ‘feels more like a placeholder,’ says chamber head

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson outlines the province’s three-year budget in Victoria, April 20, 2021. (B.C. government video)
South Surrey, White Rock MLAs call Tuesday’s provincial budget ‘disappointing’

MLAs Stephanie Cadieux and Trevor Halford say residents are getting less for more

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden smile as they say farewell following a virtual joint statement in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030, short of U.S. goal

Trudeau announced target during a virtual climate summit convened by U.S. President Joe Biden

Nic Hume and his fellow paramedic stopped to rescue the victim of an Oak Bay hit-and-run – a duck – at the end of their shift Thursday morning. (Nic Hume/Facebook)
B.C. paramedics don’t duck a chance to help someone in need

Ambulance duo end a long shift by helping a distressed duck in Victoria suburb

As the snow in Manning Park melts, searchers are able to get a little farther each day. Photo submitted
Family resumes search for son missing in B.C.’s Manning park since October

‘This is our child, and we don’t give up on our children,’ said mother of Jordan, Josie Naterer

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Man dies after Okanagan Connector rollover

A passenger survived and is being treated in hospital for his injuries

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canada buys 65M Pfizer booster shots for protection against COVID-19 variants

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the deal with Pfizer includes options to add 30 million doses in both 2022 and 2023, and an option for 60 million doses in 2024

A plan flew over the Lower Mainland with a sign expressing some Canucks fans’ discontent with the team’s general manager. (Niqhil Velji - Twitter Screenshot)
#FireBenning movement gets off the ground in Metro Vancouver

Canucks fans raise enough money to fly banner over Metro Vancouver asking for team GM to be canned

The freed osprey keeps a wary eye on its rescuers after being deposited on its nest. (Photo credit: Greg Hiltz)
Hydro crew in Ashcroft gets osprey rescue call-out they won’t soon forget

Bird was tangled in baling wire hanging from a hydro pole, necessitating a tricky rescue

Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth speaks to media at the Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday February 5, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to announce travel restrictions today to limit COVID-19 spread

Mike Farnworth is expected to give details of what the government views as essential travel

Most Read