Queen Victoria Seaman’s Rest has been serving service men, the homeless, and more for approximately 180 years. Salem Abdelkader of Queen Victoria Seasman’s Rest said, “It’s not just a hostel, it’s not just a place, it’s a home.” Members of the community and residents at Queen Victoria Seaman’s Rest gathered last week for food and fellowship at the 5th annual You Press community dinner. A resident named Shek attended the event and has been staying at Queen Victoria Seasman’s Rest for a short period of time. This was his first time attending the community dinner. He said his favorite part of the event was seeing his fellow residents, some of which he only sees at meals. He said he was impressed with the event but also with Salem. Shek said, “I’m even more impressed with our man Salim because when I came, he was the first to receive me. Amongst all the people here, he stands out. It doesn’t surprise me that he’s done this for you guys for five years.”
Several other people played a major part in the success of the event. Ayesha Tariq works with the Clothworkers Foundation. The foundation donates approximately 10 to 15 thousand pounds to various organisations, many of which aim to help the disadvantaged or those in need. “For myself. It’s not just about giving cash or giving money and saying, hey, go away and just do your thing. It’s actually following it up and understanding how far it’s going, how empowering is it for that organisation,” Tariq said. The Clothworkers Foundation donated the digital equipment for the community dinner event. Tariq said that You Press and its mission to help young people find and broadcast their voice impressed them. “We never get the chance to visit projects. So this is like one of the very rare moments where you get to see it in action,” Tariq said.
When the event started five years ago, it was small however, it has grown immensely. Set up for the event started at 4:30 PM, including setting up tables and chairs and preparing the food. As an intern, I helped with the setup, primarily helping in the kitchen with the food preparation. The doors opened at six and people filled the room. People began to talk and eat. At 7:00 PM the official program started and several people came to the stage to address the room. Director and founder of You Press, Farah Mohammoud gave the welcome address. He even shared a spoken word piece he recently wrote. He said that he writes when he is inspired and this event inspired him. Following Farrah, two poets from You Press shared their spoken words. Nomadic Libaax is an alumnus of The Collective Programme and shared words like “for in pain we find peace, in pleasure, we find release, with hard times comes ease, same words on repeat.” Tasneim Zyada, an alumnus of the Aspire program, was the second performer. She has been writing for 15 years and performing for a total of seven years. She shared three poems: “Swing,” “A Dedication to My First Flame,” and “The Beginning.” Two current participants of the Aspire Training Programme also attended the event. Furthermore, Amina Mohammad, a donor, and supporter of the event shared the ABCs of community with the group. She instructed everyone to stand and shout, accept, believe, and commit. At this time in the night, it was also brought to everyone’s attention that five residents at Queen Victoria Seaman’s Rest who attended the community dinner event in the past have passed away. A moment was taken to address and honor them, to honor those in attendance, and to show the importance of an event like this.
After the welcome and various speakers/performers, people had a few more minutes to fellowship together before additional food would be served. The warm food was served at approximately 8:00 PM and those fasting for Ramadan would break their fast together at that time.
Several people who attended appreciated the event and noticed its value and impact. Olivia Reid attended the event for the first time with her son and said, “The creation of spaces like this is so important”, especially in these times of isolation, loneliness, and division (religious, racial, etc). In addition, she mentioned how she appreciated that the event took place during significant events like Ramadan and Passover because it also allowed people to share that with others and support their peers. Olivia said she plans to continue to attend this event in the future.
“Incredible.” “Humbling.” “Inspiring.” “Amazing.” “Blessed.” These are a few words people used to describe the community dinner and I would like to add one more… “Impactful.”