A PROJECT in East Oxford which helps the homeless by making them tasty meals is celebrating its fourth birthday.

Headington resident Shabnam Sabir began the Oxford Homeless Project after giving out dishes to the city’s homeless during Ramadan, the annual month of fasting observed by Muslims.

In the days that followed, Ms Sabir felt she could be doing more for those living out on the streets.

She rallied a team of volunteers and created the charity, which now provides a fortnightly lunch on Mondays at the Asian Cultural Centre, off Manzil Way, East Oxford.

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Four years on, the project feeds at least 50 homeless people, with about a dozen volunteers helping out a each meal.

Oxford Mail:

Ms Sabir said food has been served every other Monday since the venture started.

She added: “We have provided our friends in need with any item they needed such as sleeping bags, to boots, coats and tents.

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“We have also provided lots of items at every meal including free hair cuts.

“We have also celebrated key events such as Eid and Christmas with our guests as well as Easter and Halloween to ensure our friends don’t feel left out of the normality of day-to-day celebrations.”

Oxford Mail:

Ms Sabir said the meals enterprise has helped the homeless to get a sense of normality in their lives to give them hope and a sense of belonging to society as many of them felt isolated and excluded from society.

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She added: “Each year we have also taken our guests on summer trips to ensure they enjoy the same treats we all do.

“We wanted to take this opportunity to thank all of our volunteers too to say thank you for their dedication, their care, their time and their unconditional compassion.

"They have kept the project running and their kindness has given our guests a reason to feel valued and respected when they come for a meal on the Mondays."

Oxford Mail:

Every other Monday an array of food is cooked for the occasion.

Ms Sabir said: “Even though it’s been four years since we’ve been serving our guests I still feel goosebumps at every meal when I sit with our guests or talk to our volunteers who have come for the first time. It’s an incredible way to spend an afternoon with so much warmth and love in the room.”

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Lord Mayor Craig Simmons will be attending the celebrations on Monday and pupils from St Francis Primary school children will be helping out. The school is keen to ensure the children get involved in community volunteering.

Oxford Mail:

A group of pupils will be performing for guests on the day with a choir.

Others will help with decorating the tables and making messages of kindness for the guests. Students from EMBS Community College will also be volunteering on the day.

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The adult students will be cooking and serving and the sixth form students will be setting up, decorating the hall and helping with serving throughout the event.

Ms Sabir added: “We feel it’s important to involve as many people of all ages and backgrounds as possible to give them an insight into the lives of those less fortunate.”

The birthday celebration takes place from noon until 3pm at the Asian Cultural Centre.