Enoch Kanagaraj, Stanborough Park church member and Chief Executive of 'One Vision' charity, has been recognised for contributions to his church's local community by being awarded the title 'Community Champion' and invited to a reception at Number 10 Downing Street to meet the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak.
Community Champions were set up a decade ago to improve the local population's health. Still, since the Covid pandemic, the name has been used to celebrate people who make parliamentary constituencies across the country a better place to live. Each of the 650 Members of Parliament was asked to nominate somebody who has helped to make a difference in their constituency through their voluntary work. Enoch's MP, Dean Russell, is also the Minister for Housing and the Homeless and a Patron of the charity, One Vision, which Enoch founded and is now its Chief Executive (a voluntary role alongside his day job in retail.)
As Enoch says, "it all started with knocking on doors in the area surrounding Stanborough Park church in Watford." He was part of the Church Community Services (CCS) team visiting homes in the locality, ascertaining their needs and how to meet them.
Enoch says, "As the CCS developed, we recognised that the community needs were much greater than we could meet. We began to connect and meet with other community organisations, charities, and national government leaders, to explore how we could cooperate. Everything was based at Stanborough Park church. Suddenly, people who normally would not come here were regular visitors. Our motto is 'Bringing People Together'."
This led to further contact with the police, local government, and the National Health Service to find out what help was needed, and then it would be decided how to meet those needs. Hence 'One Vision' was launched in August 2018 to provide practical support to vulnerable individuals and families. In doing so, it brings together different cultural backgrounds to address the needs of the Watford community, Enoch explains, and with it, another way of doing things.
Soon afterwards, the pandemic struck, the country went into lockdown, and One Vision swung into action, providing hot meals (here the local Gurdwara played an important part) and distributing them along with food parcels to schools, isolated people, the sick and those in need with the church hall becoming a hive of activity. "My idea is to work with everybody, post-Covid mental health, with statutory bodies (e.g. the police). How can we support and integrate with the community?" Enoch says.
Since then, many local initiatives have been set up, including a partnership with the local health authority to help with loneliness and mental health issues. A Youth Council was established for the town's youth to meet the mayor and share their views. Special events such as a remembrance service for the late Queen and Remembrance Day services have been held in the 'Peace Garden' adjacent to the church, which has been attended by representatives of local government, the police, the local community, senior denominational officers and so on. These are just a few examples of the areas in which One Vision has been involved.
So, on Thursday, 23 March, Enoch met the British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, as one of a group of six Community Champions and their MPs from various parts of the country. He says that Mr Sunak was aware of One Vision's good work and thanked him for his efforts to help the local community.
As the local MP later wrote, "It was a wonderful opportunity to bring together the Community Champions from across the UK and to give us a chance to thank them for their enormous contribution to the communities we represent. On behalf of the people of Watford, I would like to thank Enoch for all the fantastic work he does through One Vision and its various initiatives. I don't think there is a day when he is not doing something to help those around him. He is always willing to help whoever asks and does not seek recognition or praise."
Enoch always shares his faith and told the prime minister he was an Adventist. He says that this always gives some surprise that someone born outside the United Kingdom (he has lived in the UK for 35 years) is a Christian and, in this case, is a contrast to a Hindu prime minister born in the UK of Indian heritage!
British Union Conference Director for Adventist Community Services and One Vision trustee Sharon Platt-McDonald states: "This award as 'Community Champion' is so deserving of the visionary, compassionate and dedicated work that Enoch has spearheaded. We are immensely proud of him. Additionally, we are so grateful to God for the opportunity to enhance the quality of life through the various services to the community that One Vision charity undertakes. Please continue to pray for the efficacy of our outreach, that God will impact lives, both for now and eternity."
Of his award, he says, "I am humbled and honoured to be nominated as a Community Champion by our local MP Dean Russell at Number 10 Downing Street. I am proud to represent the people of Watford. I would not be here without the support of the volunteers, family, and friends." Summing up the events behind it and that his charity is going "from strength to strength," he finds it all "beyond my cognitive imagination that I'm not elected unexpectedly." And to think it all started with knocking on doors!
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