The Unconditional Support of The Tabernacle Christian Centre for The Families of Grenfell Tower

By Paula-Elizabeth Jordan

I was inspired to write this article when I had free day in that I planned to go to London to do whatever I could for the Families of Grenfell Tower. After seeing and hearing about it on the news and bursting into floods of tears every time I decided that I had to do something more than cry. In the past it had never occurred to me that I too could make a difference – even if just small. I have grown tremendously in confidence over the years and this “hit me” in a place in my heart that urged me to take action. Before I tell you more of the story let me just give you an idea of exactly what these poor Families were faced with; which in some cases was in additions to losing their belongings and home – it was every other member of their Family too.

The Families faced such enormous devastation that I felt a duty to share what I knew of their story on my Social Media – Instagram/ Twitter/ Facebook – so it can always be remembered so that it never ever happen again. As I wrote on my Instagram page:

The Plight of the Families:

The first victim named was a 23 year old Engineering Student; also a refugee from Syria. The media has given us a lot reasons to feel negatively towards Syria, yet this guy was an Amazing person. His older brother who survived unveiled the reason he had chosen to study engineering; in the hope one day, “after the war”, of rebuilding his country. That is inspiration at its highest and now he is denied the chance. Sadly the brothers had become separated and this was only realised too late; his older brother was on the phone to him in his dying moments that is something I will always remember. More than one person lost every member of their Family. Rather alarmingly sad was the fact that parents were throwing babies out of windows in the hope that either someone would catch them, or they would survive the fall and be found and cared for by someone. A six month old baby was found in the arms of her mother and very harrowingly, a child was still-born in hospital hours after the fire. Can you imagine the emotions that the remaining family and friends of these people are feeling?? Such an ambivalent mix of guilt, relief, fear, anger and frustration; I felt if I could offer them even a little love and take any of their pain away I would do it in a heartbeat.

I’ve read about how survivors and friends have described those who lost their lives. These are some of the adjectives that stood out; amazing, selfless, kind-hearted, intelligent, talented, funny, hilarious and caring. They were all well liked individuals who gave a lot of love to people and had bright futures ahead of them. One example being a young artist who had her artwork exhibited at the Venice Biennale. It was only helping out that I realised I needed to do more than just share their story on Social Media; I needed to write an article that first showed the plight of the families and the selfless support of one particular church. Second, I want to really show people how reaching out to others and really going “out of your way” to help someone actually benefits you probably as much as it benefit them. This will become clear.

My Story of Support:

I wasn’t actually going to include this part in the article until I was speaking about it to one of the other volunteers and she put forward that I should include it in my article. The reason I decided to is because it does actually demonstrate sheer determination brought on by the desire to reach outwards and help people who really need supporting in a big way beyond usual. This is the beginning of my story of support for the Families of Grenfell Tower.

My family was aware that I was determined to do something; my Mum and Dad regularly watch Songs of Praise and one of the episodes featured some of the surrounding churches to Grenfell Tower and the support that they had been offering. One church in particular stood out. The morning of the day I had decided to dedicate to The Families of Grenfell Tower I watch the episode (on iPlayer) of Songs of Praise so I knew where to go. I previously had no idea of where I should go; just that I should go and do something. I remembered my Mum and Dad saying that people wishing to help should go to The Tabernacle Church, (I think they felt I’d be safer if I went to a church!). Whilst watching Songs of Praise I was again in floods of tears, especially when they sung “When I needed a neighbour were you there, where you there…”; so I was pleased that I was actively getting ready to do something. I definitely had the overriding feeling that The Tabernacle Church was where I needed to go. Having had a career working with Families and children I knew that police checks would be required for any volunteers – although I have current police checks (DBS) that are available on a sight for anyone to look up people who don’t know me can’t just take my word for it. I really felt that the Tabernacle Church would not turn me away and that even if I washed up (I took a pair of rubber gloves!) – I would do it with vigour for the Families of Grenfell Tower.

I left my house at about 09:45 to avoid the rush hour. I had continuously Googled the Tabernacle Church to find where I needed to go. I couldn’t seem to find an address for it anywhere no matter what I typed in the search engine. So I asked my Mum and Dad where they thought it was; my Dad put forward that he thought he heard somewhere that it was near Elephant and Castle tube station. I looked up Elephant and Castle on a map – it said Kensington nearby – that was good enough for me! – Off I went on my journey. Finally arriving at Elephant and Castle I had a feeling that I was somewhat further from the Tabernacle Church than what I had originally thought I’d be. I began walking; I saw the Shard and felt a small sense of relief as I had remembered seeing it on Songs of Praise. I decided to walk in the direction of the Shard. I reached eventually reach Monument Tube station and decided that I had to be in the wrong area of London – this just didn’t seemed like the area I had seen on Songs of Praise. I finally find the station nearest to the actual tower itself – Latimer Road station – right back where I had just come from (my train gets in at London Marylebone) and in the opposite direction to where I was (it was central west London – I was now central east London!!). So I get on the tube and go all the way back where I had come from and all the way to Latimer Road station! I managed to finally also find an address for The Tabernacle Church – it’s actually called The Tabernacle Christian Centre and I had been looking up the Tabernacle Church, hence why I could find its address!!

Upon arriving at Latimer Road Station the first thing that struck me was that the burnt-out structure of the Grenfell Tower was clearly visible from the station – it must have only been a short walk away. I took a photo purely because I felt that it’s an image that should always be remembered to avoid the same situation at all costs from this moment onwards. I thought I’d be able to locate The Tabernacle CC easily. I ended up outside a number of different churches all obviously doing things for the Families of Grenfell Tower; one was open I went inside to see if they could direct me because I now had my heart set on finding The Tabernacle CC because that’s where I felt a calling to go. I asked for directions and was delighted when the lady seemed to think she knew where I meant. I eagerly followed her directions and ended up at a bar called the Tabernacle where people were preparing costumes for the Notting Hill Carnival!! – Wrong Tabernacle. By this time I had also bought a beautiful bunch of flowers to put with other flowers laid on every street corner for the victims – I wanted to the Tabernacle CC to advise me of the best location for my flowers. I walk back where I had come from by now a little concerned because time was ticking and less and less of the day was going to be left to help the Families of Grenfell Tower. I happened to notice a sign that said; “Support for the Families of Grenfell Tower this way”. With renewed hope I eagerly followed the signs. I explained my situation to the people who appeared in charge and they were able to direct me and helped me set my phone’s satnav so I would be certain to get there! It was now mid-afternoon and when I finally arrived I noticed that the sign on the door said they were opened week-days 08:00 – 16:30 – it was 15:45!! I was just about to knock when a lady opened the door. I explained my story to her and told her how I wanted to do something for the Families of Grenfell Tower. She had a very kind face and looked at me with deeply empathetic eyes; she said I could come in and help them tidy the clothes rails of items donated by high-street shops for the families. I immediately recognised the inside of the church from Songs of Praise and was relieved that my journey hadn’t been in vein and I met some of the other volunteers. I told them about watching Songs of Praise; they seemed especially delighted that I had picked them out as the place to go a help. Whilst helping I met Pastor Derrick, who had featured on Songs of Praise and the lady with the kind face was his wife, Pastor Paulette. They actually stayed open until 19:30 – I felt extremely grateful to have been given the opportunity to at least do a few hours of work that would benefit the Families of Grenfell Towereven in just a very small way.

This is the part of my story of support that everyone likes best: Upon quickly checking my Fitbit I had already completed 19,000 steps upon reaching The Tabernacle CC. By the end of the day – because I got a bit lost on the way back too and walked home from the station – I had done 30,000 steps!! – For all the geeks amongst you, with my sized-steps that covered 21 kilometres which is equal to 13.5 miles – so by the end of the day I’d walked the equivalent of a half marathon to find the Tabernacle CC to do something for the tangible for the Families of Grenfell Tower! This type of determination can only be driven by a desire that extends beyond the self that is deep enough to override what may be considered more “logical” (to give up) and continue on my mission driven by what my heart told me was right.

Upon talking to the other volunteers I discovered that some of them had very inspiring stories and I began to have a feeling deep from within my soul that I needed to write an article about the genuine, good work being done at the Tabernacle CC for the Families of Grenfell Tower. Firstly, to keep the story of Grenfell alive because the families will need continued support for years yet. Second, to demonstrate how doing voluntary work for a greater cause that extends beyond “the selfbrings out the best in people and is actually beneficial to the volunteer in addition to the “cause” and that will obviously have a “rippling effectto those who are closest to the volunteer, namely family, friends and work colleagues.

I actually felt so inspired by the work at The Tabernacle CC that I went back there on that coming Saturday (this time I knew where I was going!!) and have been back to help several other Saturdays too with plans to go again. The People at The Tabernacle CC make you immediately feel like family and I am building some good friendships with some of the other volunteers. Although what I have been doing is not directly with the families what became clear was how their resources – mainly their boiler and their flooring were suddenly being so over-used by the work they were doing that they were breaking down. The boiler was no longer heating the water and their carpet and flooring really need desperately to be replaced. If the support system breaks down, then so does the support. So anything done for the Tabernacle CC also benefits the Families of Grenfell Tower. It was definitely clear that their main focus was to ensure they did things directly for the families and that anything money, clothes, food etc. – went directly to the families, first-hand.

The Incredible Beginning to an Amazing Journey of Support and Love:

I want to share with you the amazing story of support that I gradually heard more and more about whilst helping at The Tabernacle CC. On the day of the fire The Tabernacle CC was so full of survivors and people who came to offer their service as a volunteer. One volunteer informed me that Pastor Derrick will open the church out to people at any time and on that particular day he opened the doors at 04:00/04:30 (I think that the time she said?!) in the morning because the people were in need of support. The actual church building is relatively small compared with a lot of churches and doesn’t have the capacity to take more than a few hundred people – on that day the volunteers I spoke to estimated that there were 1000+ people there. Victoria Beckham apparently sent her sons to volunteer and she stipulated that must go to the church. Beatie Edney, Prudie from Poldark has also volunteered! Because of the extremity of the situation and devastating impact it had no one was turned away and everyone just worked together to do the best they could to give love and comfort to families who and just lost everything and in some cases, everyone too.

The amazing factor here is that in those first few days when so many people gathered at the church it quickly became apparent that there were people from all faiths present in the same building all supporting each other. Everyone pulled together to do the best they could for all of the survivors – the only thing that mattered was to meet the now desperate needs of Families who now had nothing and in some cases, no one. On the first few days the volunteers told me that the Families just needed love, comfort and someone who would listen to them. In the weeks to follow the Pastors and the volunteers informed me that a “military style relief mission” was set in action by who they described as “ordinary people” all pulling together to set up a support operation for the urgently desperate needs of the Families. They described to me how they didn’t have any of the proper equipment, or training to provide such a mission and how most often they had to improvise and accommodate with what they had to make things work. They also described to me how tired they often felt as they were working sometimes between 14-16 hours a day to set up a system of support that would more adequately meet both the physical (clothing, food etc.) and emotional needs of the Families. What kept them going was that the needs of the Families of Grenfell Tower were far more urgent than their need for sleep so they just kept going because they had too. I would describe them more accurately as “extraordinary people”. Remember what I said about how the determination to continue when logically it doesn’t seem possible is bought about when the need to stop is overridden by circumstances that extend beyond the self to a greater cause? – Well this is what was happening at The Tabernacle CC in the first few weeks because the church recognized that to be able to provide they type of holistic support that the Families now required they needed to set-up a “systematic operation” to do it adequately. The volunteers said that although looking back it was tiring and they don’t know how they coped; they also felt extreme sense of “community togetherness” and love.

What the Pastors and volunteers said they quickly noticed was that the kind donations of clothing offered by people although generous, were all second-hand. They felt that for Families who had lost everything, to be given second-hand clothing seemed a bit degrading so they set a strict policy that only new items of clothing and shoes could be offered to the Families. High Street stores really stepped up here and send an overwhelming amount of clothing, school uniforms and shoes for the Families. At present they need winter clothing – especially coats and jumpers. With regards to food supplies, I was informed that even on the first day more than enough came in and they had to start turning some away because – along with the people – they just didn’t have the space to cope with any more.

Other support operations were providing Families with a pre-packed box of mixed items that they felt the Families would need.  What The Tabernacle CC noticed was that often the clothing in these pre-packed boxes didn’t always fit, or wasn’t appropriate because it was done on a “one shoe fits allbasis. The support system they had worked hard to create by systematically ordered everything – With clothing; clothing men/women, girls/boys (all in size order on rails), school uniforms, baby clothes etc. With food; rice, pasta, sources, fish, vegetables, cereals etc. With toiletries; shower gels/sponges, shampoos/conditioner, toothpaste/toothbrushes, moisturizers, deodorants etc. and later also household cleaning products too – meant they could now easily locate specific items that the Families actually needed. One telling sign that their support was truly making a difference is that often Families of all faiths come to just sit in the Church because it was so peaceful. They do this because they put forward that they feel the Tabernacle CC is an environment where they feel safe. The Tabernacle CC now has 90 Families registered with them (they have to be registered due to fraudulent claims) making them one of the largest official providers of support for the Families of Grenfell Tower.

What this means is that there’s a lot of worked involved maintaining such a high level operation. Everything has to be kept in order and replenished from stocks when it runs out. Much like in a retailers fashion store, the clothing has to be maintained and kept in size order – if there are any empty hangers they have to be removed. Then for the Sunday service, on Saturday everything is carefully removed into the back room and the whole place is hoovered and mopped, and the chairs for the Sunday’s service are put out ready for the following day. Then, after the service the whole congregation helps move everything back ready for the Families to come and browse at their leisure to get the things they desperately need. The volunteers also tell me how humble the Families are and how sometimes they need to gently encourage them to take more because they need it, – they call it shopping for dignity though it’s all free for the Families. Emotional support is offered too; much in the same way Maria Montessori would advise it’s given as and when the Families seek it. All this is done by hard working volunteers who’s heart tell them to keep going. As one volunteer said to me; we’ll keep going for 10 years if we have too”.  You have to be truly dedicated to be this committed to such hard work that doesn’t have any financial benefit and as I have mentioned; this can only be achieved when the cause is far greater than the needs of the self. On speaking with volunteers I actually wished I’d volunteered sooner; I’m pleased I volunteered when I did.

Some Relief for the Families:

Pastor Derrick told me about how their work is helping the Families of Grenfell Tower. Many of the Families have said things like; If you guys were not there for us I don’t know what we would have done?” One lady said that if it wasn’t for the support from The Tabernacle CC she wouldn’t have had any. Sadly some of the survivors have admitted that they would have been on the verge of committing suicide had it not been for the extreme support of The Tabernacle CC. Tragically there has actually been five suicides from survivors and 25 more attempted. The willingness and determination of the Pastors and volunteers to keep going no matter what is like a candles bringing light to these Families darkest hour. Every time I’m at the Tabernacle CC helping I feel a strong and genuine sense of honesty and love.

Over time the Pastors and Volunteers have gotten to know the Families well and are thus able to know exactly how to offer their support in a way that’s best for each individual Family. This means that opportunity is naturally created in friendly conversation for the Families to talk about how they’re feeling and coping. I can tell just from the things the volunteers were telling me that they really understood the needs of each individual Family from smaller things such as beginning to feeling the chill of Winter setting in, hence the plea for winter clothing. Plus their greater needs, such as how each individual are coping with rebuilding their life from scratch.

Ahmed Said Hansdot, an ex-Mayor of Gloucester was so impressed with the support that Muslim people were receiving at The Tabernacle CC that he came down and volunteered himself! He now will often come down to help out at The Tabernacle CC.

Some Volunteer’s Stories of Support:

I would like to share with you some of the inspiring stories about how volunteering also actually helped changed the lives of some of the volunteers for the better too. I have been given permission to use the names of the volunteers that I asked. I hope their stories inspire you as much as they did me.

Abby: I met Abby on my first visit to The Tabernacle CC. When we had an opportunity to chat a little more towards the end I was struck by her inspiration story of support. It really demonstrates how volunteering has helped changed her life and that of her families for the better too and I asked her if I could share it with you.

Abby was one of the first volunteers to “come from afar”; she lived in Gloucestershire because she felt so moved by the plight of the Families of Grenfell Tower and wanted to do something to help them. She also informed me that in the initial couple of weeks the smell of the burning tower could be smelt quite far up the motorway. Abby informed me that her life before, in addition to her four children (17, 16, 10 and 9 years of age), her life had been all about her horses. Sadly she’s experienced a horse-riding accident where doctors informed her she would probably be in a wheel-chair for the rest of her life. Being a very active and determined person Abby said, “After an active life riding horses I couldn’t have that; I knew I’d have to stop riding. Plus, I also have four children to consider.” Somehow Abby found the strength within her to start walking again despite what the doctors told her. She informed me that volunteering at The Tabernacle CC has proved to her that with enough faith you can “beat the odds” and achieve something amazing.

She also informed me that her eldest son (17) was “saved” from drug-dealing by coming and assisting at The Tabernacle CC. Abby knew it had changed him when he asked Pastor Derrick to Baptize him and began to take an active interest in helping people. Also her eldest daughter has begun to take more of an interest and commented at how kind everyone was at The Tabernacle.

Abby informed me that she felt so welcomed by the genuine love of everyone at the church that it has renewed her faith in humanity and she decided to moved down to London because she felt more at home at The Tabernacle CC. Her two youngest children have free scholarships at the primary school the church run, Tabernacle School – yes, they have a school too because they want to provide a good start in life for all children, including those whose families cannot afford private education. Plus, her eldest son now attends college in London and he eldest daughter will too when she’s ready. Abby’s friends have noticed how much happier she is and her two youngest children are loving school!

Charley: I met Charley on my fourth visit to The Tabernacle CC; she was actually featured on Songs of Praise! Charley came from Essex and her initial motivation for helping is because 11 years ago she had a house fire and was left homeless with only a few boxes of things. She had to spend two years in a hostel. Upon hearing about the Grenfell Tower fire Charley informed her husband that she wanted to go and help out as way of giving back after receiving a lot of support from family and friends after her house fire.

Similarly to Abby, Charley also felt that volunteering had renewed her faith in humanity and also shown her that it was possible to “break through limits” and achieve things she didn’t know she was capable of achieving. She also put forward that it had helped increase the bond in her relationship with her son, who is now 16. He has also helped out at The Tabernacle as he remembers losing all his toys at five years of age in their house fire. Both Charley and Abby were unanimous in their opinion that volunteering is a positive experience for children, plus it really helps you evaluate your own life. Charley said about volunteering; “to see the grateful expressions on the children’s faces makes it all worthwhile”.

Alex: On every Saturday I have assisted at The Tabernacle CC, Alex has been there helping. When I asked him how volunteering had helped him, he responded; “It has helped me take my eyes off myself and put them on others.” Alex’s was extremely humble in his manner reluctant to speak more about himself. The learning and growing that he experienced through volunteering was an awesome feeling.        

What This means for Your “Family Team”: 

If you notice there’s a “common thread” in  what the volunteers have been experiencing; they have all mentioned how they have a desire to help and that it has helped them break boundaries in their own lives, even by just changing their focus. I firmly believe that volunteering for a greater cause that extends beyond the boundaries of oneself really benefits you as an individual and the “rippling effect” means that people around you benefit too. In today’s society that is very image focused it also beneficial for children to experience doing some voluntary work to help them see life from a broader perspective, plus to evoke feelings of gratitude, because the more you appreciate things in life, naturally the happier you become. Think about it; the more things that make an individual feel appreciative and happy, the happier that individual will become. Thus, people around them will feel happier too. You also realize that you need less than what the media and advertisements will have you believe you need!

One of the other Ministers featured on Songs of Praise put forward that; People pulling together is the unwitting result of disasters”. What I’m sure he meant by this is not that people pulling together is a bad thing – No, that it’s a shame that it take a disaster for people to all pull together; why can’t we all work together like this all the time? Imagine what we could achieve if we did?!

My Conclusion:

Volunteering at The Tabernacle CC brought my mind back to the hymn I mentioned hearing on Songs of Praise; When I needed a neighbour where you there?” The chorus line of this hymn is; “And the creed and the colour and the name don’t matter were you there?” Basically, whoever you are, wherever you’re from; it does matter as you are as worthy of love and support as any other individual. I’ll tell you a few other things that don’t matter” (when it comes to reaching out and helping someone) about people too; their gender, their age, their weight, there financial status, their appearance and their ability to name but a few. However, how many of us allow things like this to decide a person’s worth?? This sadly often results in individuals allowing this to define themselves and in reality, it doesn’t. Absolutely everyone deserves equal love and support in the individual ways they may need it.

When “Family Teams” all pull together for a greater cause they createCommunity Teams”. On an even bigger scale to “Community Teams” we have “National Teams”. The Olympic “Team GB” helped us relate to this idea. Then, in my mind, on the biggest scale we have “Team HB”, or “Team Human-Being”. That to me includes all seven billion of us World Wide. I want to end with a question; what do you do to support Team HB?? Even helping in a small way such as showing kindness to someone is service to humanity.

I wouldn’t usually do this but I’m going to include a donation site for the Families of Grenfell Tower and for The Tabernacle Christian Centre because I believe the cause is so worthy and I trust them implicitly. Their Facebook donation page is, @tccvolunteers – I’ve been informed that this is the best site to go to – type it into the search engine and it comes up straight away. Plus, their website is; www.tabernaclechristiancentre.org – the donation links are on the website. For more information please either email The Tabernacle Christian Centre at; [email protected] or email me at; [email protected] or message me through Instagram/Twitter, @FamilyTeamCoach or through Facebook/LinkedIn at Paula-Elizabeth Jordan, thank-you.

 

Author Biography:

Paula-Elizabeth Jordan is a Montessori trained Child-Development Expert who’s passionate about helping “Family Teams” work together for the benefit of each other, as this is how successful, well-balanced, happy children are raised. She has been Montessori trained for over ten years now and also has a degree in Theology with an Art minor. She is presently writing her own book entitled; “How to Bring up A Successful Human-Being”. www.paulaelizabeth.com

Paula-Elizabeth Jordan

 

Photo Credit: Getty

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