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Region 4 - Coventry Winter Night Shelter Food Service

March 2014

With Baba’s grace on 17th March 2014, a group of volunteers from the Coventry Sai Centre had the opportunity to serve food to homeless people at the St Paul's church night shelter. The shelter provides food and a bed to sleep on for homeless people residing in Coventry. Baba says "Service to Man is Service to God".

The Coventry Winter Night Shelter project was set up in January 2014, so that homeless people have a safe place to sleep, keep warm and have something to eat. During the week different churches within the city of Coventry are used as temporary night shelters on a rotary system. It is important to note that temperatures during the Winter months in the UK can be below freezing. This is further compounded by unsettled climate conditions which make living on the streets unimaginable in terms of difficulty. Added to that scene is likely starvation, a fear for safety and the thought of what the next day brings for a homeless person. Only those who have faced such hardships can fully understand.

Baba says "You should use your power of determination to do good to others and not to harm or cause suffering to anyone" (Extract from Bhagavan's Discourse 27th June 1996).

To help the St Paul's church night shelter with their work in feeding homeless people on the 17th of March, a devotee had prepared food. The vegetarian food was prepared at their home with fresh ingredients and spices. The food was delivered at 8pm and was ready to serve. In total four volunteers from the Coventry Sai Centre helped to serve food to 18 homeless people and the regular night shelter volunteers. The main meal served was a tasty dahl curry with rice including vegetables. The meal was accompanied with cheese and pickle sandwiches and a yogurt packet and chocolate sweets for desert. Everyone who received food were extremely grateful of the food they had received. As there was extra food available many took the opportunity for more, in what was a sumptuous meal.

There were many occasions for Coventry Sai Centre volunteers to contemplate during this service. For instance there was a homeless person who tended to his homeless friend who had an injured leg first with food, before taking and eating his own food. The sight of 18 beds aligned in the main hall ready for homeless people to sleep on during the night. It was nice to see the social company between homeless people and the interaction of volunteers.

As the Coventry Sai Centre volunteers left for their own homes many of the homeless people with happiness and gratitude came outside of the hall area to hug and shake hands with volunteers.

It is important to thank the Multi-Faith organisers of this project, the Coventry City Council and the regular shelter volunteers for their time and effort throughout the night. The project runs only during the winter months. The following morning homeless people were given a breakfast meal before they departed.

This is an extract on service taken from Bhagavan's Discourse given at the First All India Conference of Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisations, Madras (Chennai), 21/04/1967.

"Service to others is the medicine one needs to alleviate the distress which fills one at the sight of distress in another being. Feel that you are serving yourself, that you are curbing your own ego. Otherwise, service heightens your self-esteem and develops a sense of superiority, which are both harmful spiritually".

by Coventry Sai Youth and Centre