March 27, 2019

In England, Community Initiative Founder Earns Award

June Coombs, Trans-European Division News

When a ball starts rolling, it can sometimes end up somewhere unexpected. That was the case for Enoch Kanageraj, a member of Stanborough Park Church in Watford, England, when he set up the Community Chaplaincy Service at his local church.

Kanageraj’s aim of raising the church's profile in the community and establishing and meeting local needs not only got off to a good start but also led to unexpected developments when he was appointed to Watford Football Club’s External Advisory Group.  He then received a prestigious annual award from Watford Borough Council for his involvement with the community.

As a first attempt to engage with the wider community, Kanageraj inaugurated an Annual Christmas Picture Competition. Local schoolchildren were encouraged to submit their artwork on a Christmas theme. The competition proved to be popular with all sections of the community, Christian or otherwise, and celebrated its fifth prize-giving in 2018.

Bringing the Community In

In 2018, Kanageraj was encouraged by then Stanborough church pastor Jacques Venter to go a step further and bring local community groups into the church to explain how they operate and to seek support. This led to holding Community Days with representatives from various organizations, including local women’s groups, charities for the homeless, The Red Box Project, and the local police. The day was a mixture of presentations and displays.

Around the same time, the Co-op Food supermarket where Kanageraj works became part of the company's Foodshare scheme, in which food past its “sell by” date is collected by local charities to feed those in need. One local recipient of the food collections was Annette Kelly, who was running the GoKula cafe in central Watford on a pay-as-much-as-you-can-afford basis, with free food for the homeless on Mondays. Through Kelly, Kanageraj met others who help the homeless.

Kanageraj said he saw how everyone working on their projects was a good thing, but he realized how much more effective they could be if they communicated with each other, shared resources, and targeted problem areas together. Kanageraj contacted several local groups and invited them to meet at The Stanborough Centre, adjacent to Stanborough Park Church. The response was positive, and the visiting group included the Watford mayor, representatives from the local council, the voluntary services council, the police, Neighbourhood Watch, and several charities.

“One Vision” Is Born

Several meetings later, and with the Watford Football Club on board, members of the group, now calling itself “One Vision,” benefited from training in food-handling and child protection offered at the church. They also took over running the GoKula café, rebranding it as One Vision, with the aim of holding workshops and highlighting healthy eating, as well as making it an inclusive location for everyone, especially those less fortunate.

The official opening on Monday, February 25, 2019, was attended by many of the One Vision group and included people of all faiths and none. The Adventist Church’s Health Ministries director in the UK and Ireland, Sharon Platt-McDonald, whose books on healthy eating were on display, was present, along with local pastor Geert Tap.

Now a chair of One Vision, Kanageraj was invited to join UK football’s Premiership League External Advisory Group for Watford Football Club. Members are selected from a broad range of minority groups within the area and advise the club on diversity issues.

Kanageraj was also invited to attend Watford Borough Council’s annual Audentior Awards Ceremony where, to his surprise, he was presented with the Chairman’s Award. The award was presented by well-respected former Watford Football Club player Luther Blissett.

“The town and I were very excited that for the first time in history this award was won by someone from the BAME [Black, Asian and minority ethnic] community. I am pleased, honored, and humbled to accept this award, and I would like to thank everyone who supported ‘One Vision’ to come this far,” Kanageraj said.

Kanageraj is not the first Stanborough Park church member to receive the Audentior award; that honor goes to Pat Walton for her work running Stanborough Park Church’s welfare service and community projects for more than two decades.

The original version of this story was posted on the Trans-European Division news site.