“Run by local Christians, on behalf of local churches, to meet the needs of local people” – Diane Marlow, Camberley Besom.Surrey Heath is often thought of as an affluent area, but there are pockets of poverty too, as the Surrey Heath Coalition Against Poverty are at pains to point out. A survey, in March 2010 by Confused.com, into credit card debt showed that Camberley, at £2001 per resident, had the highest in the UK. Fortunately there are local charities that can provide help, such as Frontline, and the Besom.
The Besom are a local charity who specialise in providing food packs and other items to those in need, in Camberley and the surrounding area. They work with local churches, who provide a support network of collection points, where various items may be dropped off. Demand has increased over recent months, and the concern is that as we head towards winter, some people are going to have to make a choice between eating, or heating.
St Paul’s, along with a number of other local churches, will be giving its harvest festival offerings to the Besom charity as a gift to help those in need. St Paul’s harvest gifts on Sunday 18 September, will be used to support vulnerable individuals and families in the Camberley community. Reverend Mark Chester says: “We know it’s nice to receive, but it truly is great to give; especially when it’s from the heart”. Everyone is welcome to come and join us on Sunday 18 September at 9.30 am or 11.15 am. We’ll be gathering items to pass on to those in need to help bring them comfort, a healthier living, and essentials for equipping them at home. You can help play your part by bringing food (with long expiry dates), toiletries, cleaning products and kitchen items.
I spoke with Diane Marlow, one of the volunteers from Camberley Besom. They are a national organisation, but each branch is unique, run by local Christians, on behalf of local churches, to meet the needs of local people. They help people of all ages and situations. They have created a series of packs, which can quickly be dispatched to those in need. For example food packs, new mum packs and kitchen starter packs. The Besom have a specific ethos when it comes to donated items used to make up the packs. A food item with “value” on the label makes people feel that’s all they are worth. Diane says: “the clients we work with have very low self esteem, very little self confidence and very little money. When they go shopping they have little choice, they have to buy the basic items in order to survive. We want them to see that their value is greater than that. So in a small way, when we take a gift to someone, we want them to feel it’s a small reflection of the way in which God values them”. This ethos means anything donated should be of the very best quality, not from a value or basic range, but of a standard that shows that people are valued. People on the poverty line have very little choice, so we need to make them feel special.
One example of the help the Besom has provided in Camberley was a young family from Staines with a 6 month old baby. The family were required by social services to move into temporary accommodation in Camberley, as they had a relative in the area. The father lost his job because he didn’t have transport to travel from Camberley to Staines. With the resulting delay in benefits, they found themselves unable to feed themselves or their baby. Besom were able to support them over a number of weeks with food and other essential items until their financial difficulty was resolved.
Another example was a young mum in difficult circumstances, who had given birth earlier than expected and was unprepared. The Besom were contacted with a request for a baby bath. They went out with the bath, a new mum pack and a food pack. Often people need a selection of items, and the Besom try and meet all those needs.
I asked Diane what motivates her as an unpaid volunteer to work for the Besom. Diane says “this is God’s direction for me, it’s what I sensed him wanting me to be doing. Also in my normal work [with young people] I had one girl who was made homeless, and it was a real eye opener, just how difficult it was to find sources of help for her, and how much need there was for people in this area”.
Demand for the service that Besom provide is growing, with an unexpected increase in August. Diane forecasts with the current economic pressures, that it will get tougher as people have to choose if they spend their money on fuel or food.
The packs are their primary focus, but the Besom can also help in other ways. For example, from time to time they can organise a group of volunteers to help with gardening, painting and decorating or cleaning. The Besom take referrals from recognised organisations such as a Doctor or other health professional, local school, social services, or housing associations.
For more information on Camberley Besom, or to get in contact with them, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 07543 319921
You can hear the full interview with Diane by clicking on the play button below.