What will you be doing on New Year’s Day?? Some of us will be lacing up shiny new trainers and embarking on a fitness regime, some of us will be loafing on the sofa, picking through the remnants of the Quality Street tin. For the homeless, New Year’s Day is the hardest day of the year rather than the optimistic new start that we all hope for. It’s a bleak, cold and lonely day to be endured, with day centres and other support networks shut.
Nish Manek is working hard to make New Year’s Day better for the city’s homeless. She’s a junior doctor who volunteered for some shifts with Cambridge Churches Homeless Project where she met Johnny Cunningham who told her how hard it is to bring in a New Year alone in the cold. The conversations she had with Johnny stuck with Nish who believes that in this city where there is such inequality, we could and should do better. Very sadly, Johnny passed away on the streets of Cambridge later that year. He was just 63.
With four weeks to go to New Year’s Day 2019, Nish launched The Big Brunch. She raised £1000 through an appeal and arranged for Tesco and Waitrose to donate food. The response was immediate and overwhelming with plenty of people volunteering to help on the day while others donated food and clothes. A barber stepped up after a last minute appeal on social media so free haircuts were on offer. There was music and singing and a fabulous social atmosphere as homeless and volunteers chatted and shared a hot meal together.
Now another New Year’s Day is almost upon us and The Big Brunch 2020 will be happening at St Andrew the Great Church in St Andrew’s Street from 11.30am – 3pm. As well as a warm welcome and a hot meal, each homeless guest will receive a £10 Post Office voucher plus hand and foot warmers. There’ll be music and singing, haircuts and clothes, warmth and laughter.
Nish has created this event out of a deep compassion for the plight of our city’s homeless and she is inspired by Gregory Boyle’s words, “Here is what we seek: a compassion that can stand in awe of what the poor have to carry, rather than stand in judgement of how they carry it.” She tells me that the event is as rewarding for the volunteers (many of whom have never worked with the homeless before) as it is for the guests and she’d love to see The Big Brunch replicated in other cities.
Here’s how you can get involved!
To volunteer to help on the day, sign up at https://bit.ly/bigbrunch2020volunteering
To make a financial donation, click here https://bit.ly/bigbrunch2020
If you’d like to donate food or clothing either in advance or on the day, please email Nish on firstname.lastname@example.org