As promised, this is the second addition to the Light Project Peterborough review; I was the shift leader at New Haven which is the central venue. At the celebration service we shared some feedback from the volunteers and guests and I thought you might like to see / hear this feedback too;
The Central venue is the first point of contact every evening for our guests. This short session sets the tone for the whole evening so it’s important to us volunteers to make it as positive as possible.
After a long day, guests come in from the cold, are greeted and signed in, and then given a hot drink and (usually) some cake! When a new guest joins the project, this is their first encounter of us – it’s a chance to show the warmth and love we’re so proud of on the project!
Don’t take my word for it! So many volunteers fed back their views on this shift, and we wanted to give voice to their words:
There’s something special about being on the shift that greets our guests after their long day in Peterborough. It’s a privilege to experience the confidence they have in us. There have been some lovely moments I’ve witnessed between the guys where they have encouraged and supported one another. It feels like a really community. I’ve also really enjoyed working with the other volunteers and doing the same shift each week means we get to know each other quite well. All lovely women.
It’s the beginning of the contact made with WNS and we can make guests feel welcomed to the project. It’s heart warming when we hear of some of them getting accommodation and/or a job and enable them to move on in their lives at a time of great difficulty for them.
I think for me it has been that sense of coming together. The camaraderie and connection on a really human level. That we are all just trying to make our way in the world as best we can.
Our guests arrive cold and weary from long days spent on the streets. We, the volunteers, at the New Haven offer our guests a warm welcome and are able to serve the Lord by sharing the gift of hospitality through love, compassion, biscuits and cake. This caring attitude helps bring a positive and chilled feeling to the start of their evening with the Night Shelter.
First impressions count, and the way in which the guests are welcomed can have an effect on the way they perceive the project and how well they engage with it. When they come through the door into the recreation area in New Haven for the first time, some of them really lack confidence and have felt let down by “the system”. Here, we aim for them to receive a warm welcome in a non-threatening environment where they can be themselves and not feel judged or looked down on.
The most heart-warming moment for me in Safe Haven is when a guest comes through the door and his/her eyes light up when they see you, recognise you and give a genuine smile and hold out their hand and ask how you are doing?
I really enjoy volunteering in the New Haven venue as there is no agenda. It is just a time for guests to come and relax over a hot drink. An important part of the project for me is having the opportunity to build self-esteem in the guests. I feel that we can play a small part in doing this at New Haven.
One of the most touching moments for me was when a new guest joined the project, cold and hungry. First he was amazed at the quality of Hazel’s famous hot chocolate (who wouldn’t be?)
As the guests and volunteers explained how the evening would go (i.e. what’s for dinner and pud!) I watched this man’s eyes light up. I don’t know how hungry he was, but the thrill was written on his face – a hot meal! When Hazel told him he’d get a cooked breakfast in the morning too, this guest didn’t actually believe her. He thought she was joking.
I’ve never seen a real life person rubbing their hands and stomach at the thought of food before, and for me this was a real eye-opener. We volunteer on this project to make some small difference, and this encounter really showed me what a difference our small acts of kindness truly make.
The light project has been life changing; it’s like being scooped up and given a big hug.
[Other guests] say when they knew him on the streets he never smiles but now he’s on he project he’s always smiling.
[the Guest] went on to say it is this project – he has met loads of professionals that are paid to help him over the years but he’s never felt as much love and kindness as he feels from us volunteers. All the volunteers are like a breath of fresh air and no matter how hard your day has been or what’s been going on, you can’t help but smile when you see the volunteers. He has decided he wants to be a volunteer to give back.