"Don't look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too."
Philippians 2:4 (NLT)
Taking an interest in others is the hallmark of One Vision charity's outreach. The scope of their interventions is highlighted on the Charity Commission website as follows:
"One Vision is a community project that provides practical support to vulnerable individuals and families in the district of Watford. Support is provided to those who self-identify as needing relief as a result of inequalities caused by food poverty and social deprivation. From hot meals and food parcels to mental health signposting services."*1
As I reflected on the work of this timely charity, it brings to mind the scripture in Deuteronomy 15:11, reminding us of our duty to those in need: "There are always going to be poor and needy people among you. So, I command you: Always be generous, open purse and hands, give to your neighbours in trouble, your poor and hurting neighbours." (The Message Bible.)
I caught up with One Vision charity founder and CEO Enoch Kanagaraj to ascertain their ongoing work and plans for the future:
SPM – Enoch, whenever I reflect on the work of One Vision, I thank God for the opportunities it opens up for service to others. Please share what you are currently doing.
EK – We are working with Hertfordshire County Council, Citizens Advice, Watford Housing Trust, etc., to tackle the cost-of-living crisis and curb food wastage. The cost-of-living problem has made us revisit how we help low-income families and people with financial difficulties. Our service user numbers have increased and will continue to grow if the cost-of-living crisis continues.
SPM – What is a crucial challenge for your service currently?
EK –To cope with the increasing number of service users and demand for resources, we need a walk-in fridge to house more food at our food hub. We receive regular food supplied to us by organisations such as FareShare (we are a registered member of FareShare); M&S, Tesco, Co-op; Morrisons; Asda; and other supermarket chains, who instead of dumping food, call us to collect and distribute. This relationship helps reduce food wastage significantly.
Once we acquire the walk-in fridge, we will be better positioned to work and partner with other local charities and faith groups. We aim to become a collection point for food, spreading the net further afield.
SPM – How do you keep abreast of the current needs of individuals accessing your service?
EK – We conduct regular surveys with our service users, recording their ongoing needs or any changes they encounter. This action helps us to be relevant in our outreach, effectively meeting their needs.
SPM – Can you share any data highlighting the range of the enquiries you receive?
EK – Yes. We are part of the Hertfordshire Food Alliance Steering Group and Building Life Chances Stakeholder Group for Cost of Living. Since April 2022, 49.5 per cent of our Crisis Intervention service enquiries are clients seeking charitable support and referrals to food banks.
• 31.7% are seeking help with benefits and tax credits
• 22.2% are struggling with unmanageable debt
• 16.6% are seeking help with utilities and communication, including applying for grants and discounts.
SPM – Those are significant figures. Have you noticed a change in numbers over the year?
EK – There has been a 10 per cent increase in people seeking charitable support since the beginning of June. We can offer help in various ways for people in a crisis, including:
• Statutory body referrals
• Referrals from faith organisations, churches and temples.
• Referrals from the NHS – hospital discharge unit, chaplaincy and social services referrals.
• Referrals for fuel support
• Household Support Fund
• Applications for discounts and low-income tariffs benefit entitlement checks
• Benefit applications and welfare benefit appeals
SPM – Can you give us a snapshot of your local networks and partners?
EK – We are involved with organisations such as:
• Community Voluntary Service Sector
• Watford General Discharge Unit
• Faith Organisations
• Hertfordshire County Council (HCC)
• Watford Borough Council (WBC)
• Citizens Advice
SPM – Do you have any plans to promote your work further?
EK – Yes. We are working with HCC and WBC Cost of Living Crisis Steering Group and other statutory bodies, such as the Police Department, the Fire Service, Citizens Advice, and various faith organisations. This relationship provides an excellent platform to reach out more effectively to a broader audience, ensuring One Vision becomes more accessible to those in need. We plan further promotion via social media channels, written communication, leafleting, and word of mouth.
We will monitor and evaluate regularly through service user surveys, community surveys, and HCC and WBC team feedback.
SPM – Please tell us about your food programme.
EK – One Vision's food programme is well-known and accessible in our community, especially in Watford and Three Rivers. We service approximately 200 families referred to us by statutory organisations. We have been delivering an excellent service to these families. This has been confirmed by the clients' and agencies' reviews and feedback.
Over the years, we have become more competent and professional in preparing nutritionally balanced, freshly prepared meals for our clients. Our chefs are experienced, and our volunteers and team are strong. They are dedicated individuals coming from a wide variety of backgrounds.
SPM – You have recently added Watford Town Adventist church to your list of food banks that you supply resources to. Please share about that.
EK – One Vision is to support Watford Town church to fight food poverty in the community. On Monday, 28 August, we delivered around £3,000 worth of food to open their food bank. We look forward to supporting their development of this outreach with regular supplies.
SPM – Thank you, Enoch. May God abundantly bless the ongoing work of One Vision.
You can access a video of the Watford Town church food bank here