Voluntary charity launches free community kitchen in Luton
NishkamSWAT looks after the immediate needs of the homeless
A charity has launched a free community kitchen in Luton on the last Friday of every month.
Suki Sangha wanted to start NishkamSWAT's voluntary homeless street feed in Luton, as a tribute to her father who passed away in October last year after being diagnosed with cancer in his oesophagus.
NishkamSWAT is a humanitarian-aid organisation founded in 2008 that looks after the immediate needs of the street homeless.
They serve at least 5000 meals a week in 24 locations in the UK, and two locations internationally, based on the concept of Langar - free community kitchen.
Suki launched NishkamSWAT Street Langar in Luton for people who were financially disadvantaged and homeless. Langar is a Punjabi word meaning open kitchen.
She said: "My father was out in India in February 2020 and became really unwell. He was diagnosed with advanced stage cancer in his oesophagus and could not return home due to the pandemic.
"His treatment began immediately in India. We finally managed to get emergency visas and flights out to India to bring him back home. But, sadly he passed away 12 days after returning home to Luton.
"My father really enjoyed wining and dining with friends and family, he loved playing the host and making sure everyone had plenty to eat and drink.
"So now when I think about how he was unable to eat anything in his last several months it really breaks my heart.
"So I felt this year instead of doing a private langar at the Gurdwara where the audience would be limited, why not reach out to the wider community and do a street langar and provide a hot meal to those people who were vulnerable, financially disadvantaged and the homeless.
"I wanted to do something special to honour him on his birthday and decided to collaborate with NishkamSWAT and launch the project in Luton for people who were financially disadvantaged and homeless.
"I also wanted to do something good for the people of Luton, I wanted to share kindness and respect in the community.
"At Sikh temples everyone is served food 'langar' with kindness and respect.
"We launched in Luton in July, but the charity has been going since 2008, they have been really supportive in helping me.
"We have received very positive feedback following the event.
"We serve hot food and bags containing non-perishable foods.
"People have been so kind and grateful, we manage to do around 150 meals a night.
"At first people were a bit confused as to why we were giving out freshly cooked hot meals.
"All the food is cooked fresh by a catering company and then we give it out. It is an open kitchen and we serve hot food to anyone who wants it."
Randeep S Lall, founder of NishkamSWAT, said: "Luton has been on our radar for quite a while now so when Suki approached us and said she wanted to do something in memory of her late father, we were humbled by this and thought it would be the perfect opportunity to set up a more regular service.
"We are so grateful for volunteers like Suki and her family who have the compassion and empathy to understand the needs of the homeless and to help us drive this project forward."
The NishkamSWAT Street Langar takes place on the last Friday of the month from 7.30, in the courtyard in the town centre, outside Debenhams.
All the volunteers wear personal protective equipment (PPE) and follow social distancing guidelines.
Suki added: "I am building my team, any volunteers are welcome to get in touch and join us.
"If anyone is interested in joining the team they can email [email protected]."
If you are interested in starting a free community kitchen in your town, you can contact NishkamSWAT on [email protected] or call 07425 365 365.