The Bishop of Dorking the Rt Revd Ian Brackley rolled up his sleeves to serve lunch at a soup kitchen and saw how cutting-edge technology is helping profoundly disabled people in a day of visits to two separate charities offering a lifeline to their communities.
Bishop Ian visited Parity for Disability in Camberley and The Vine Centre in Aldershot in April. Both charities have been supported by the Bishop of Guildfordâ€™s Lent Call, which raises thousands of pounds each year to be shared between local and global causes.
Parity for Disability, which runs day services in Camberley and Farnborough for children and adults with multiple disabilities, offers access to academic, social, living and recreational activities, as well as regular physiotherapy, speech and communication therapy from trained professionals.
Parity recently acquired cutting edge eye-controlled technology, allowing students with extremely limited movement and speech to express their wishes and control what happens simply by focusing their eyes at a computer screen.
Bishop Ian said: â€œBefore the charity was formed there was a lack of specialist provision in Surrey and North East Hampshire for children with profound and multiple disabilities who had reached school-leaving age.
â€œIt was truly heartening to see how the care of the staff and the availability of state of the art equipment have made Parity for Disability an exciting and life-changing place to be.â€
Bishop Ian then travelled to the Vine Centre in Aldershot where he helped serve lunch to clients struggling to support themselves for reasons including homelessness, unemployment, illness or addiction.
The Vine Centre, which started as a soup kitchen 25 years ago, has expanded to provide services to help vulnerable and homeless adults return to independent living.
A range of free, open access services is also available to the general community including a weekly job club, assistance with returning to work and a range of training courses including English for Speakers of other Languages (ESOL) courses.
Bishop Ian said: â€œThe Vine Centre is a place of real hope for those who use its services. It is the only service provider of its kind in the area and provides help where it is desperately needed - in the six months to April-October, 360 individuals were supported and over 2,300 services provided.
â€œMany clients require counselling, drug and alcohol support, anger management, IT and housing support as well as the traditional provision of food, warmth and clothing.
â€œI was moved to see the commitment of staff and volunteers who reach out to people for whom other doors have closed and who walk alongside them in dark times.â€
He concluded: â€œLent is a time when Christians step back from everyday life and reflect on their blessings and consider ways in which they can serve.
â€œI feel privileged and humbled to have been given an insight into the work of these charities which reach out to those in need and offer hope.
â€œI would like to thank staff and volunteers for all of their care, expertise and time and urge the public to support them wherever possible.â€
The dioceseâ€™s Lent Call which is supported by churches across Surrey and North East Hampshire raised over Â£26,000 in 2013. Its funds are split equally between the Bishop of Guildfordâ€™s Foundation - set up in 1993 to provide grants to tackle pockets of poverty and deprivation in the diocese - and an international charity which this year is Christian Aid.
The Bishop of Guildfordâ€™s Lent Call2014 is in a calendar format giving churchgoers an opportunity to count their blessings on a daily basis and support charities and organisations supported by the Bishop of Guildfordâ€™s Foundation and Christian Aid. For more details see www.cofeguildford.org.uk/diocesan-life/the-bishop-of-guildford-s-lent-call/