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Restaurants bring Christmas cheer to the lonely in Waterloo

Co-director of restaurants Troia, Cucina and Westminster Kitchen Raife Aytek is shocked at the extent of rough sleeping she sees in Waterloo. “When you go to the station it’s so worrying – in summertime and wintertime, they are sleeping in this area” she says. In response, the three restaurants in the group do “as much as we can do” to help the street homeless in the neighbourhood, regularly offering them tea or coffee and a sandwich or a meal.

In the run up to Christmas including on Christmas Day itself they are laying on a special service. At quieter times of the day, they will be offering free hot meals of two or three courses to both homeless people and elderly people who are alone at Christmas. In the latter category, all are welcome – people who don’t have family, or if their family are far away, or if they have family but don’t keep in touch with them. Any older person who is in this situation who comes in with a copy of Lambeth Life will be treated to a nice meal in a warm, friendly setting.

Migrant communities show the way
Aytek’s philosophy comes from her upbringing in Amed (Diyarbakır), in the Kurdish region of Turkey, where people always support each other, getting hungry neighbours bread or anything else they need. “This is not just about food, it’s about daily life. Because in Amed people are so poor. When my parents get old, I have to look after them. This is a good attitude: you have to look after your family. Parents did a lot for us, we need to give back to them. There’s no excuse – if you don’t look after your family, the society and community will not accept you” she says.

She sees similar attitudes in the Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities. But, she adds, local communities need to support each other no matter the ethnic background of their population. She’d like to see a Lambeth community centre follow the restaurants’ example and offer food and support on the same basis. It’s an efficient way of avoiding food waste too, she points out.

*Troia, Cucina and Westminster Kitchen are offering free meals to street homeless and to elderly people who are alone at Christmas throughout December

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