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Ali Camp

Giving people a reason to smile

One Elim project is reaching into the neediest parts of society to offer practical help, as Ali Camp explains.

The Extra Smile Project – which began in 2010 – started as a simple idea. We decided to offer practical help to individuals and families in crisis, networking with local authorities, schools, Sure Start children’s centres, Social Services and support workers within mental health through a referral process and partnership.

To date, we have assisted many people in our community and have gained a trusted reputation. Every month we take out a team of volunteers and undertake two to three projects of practical help on a Saturday morning, helping people like those who have recently been rehoused from homelessness. We assist women who have been victims of domestic violence or abuse and focus on improving living conditions for them and their children.

Proverbs 31:20 says, “She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.” This Scripture underpins our motivation for what we do. The needs that have been met to date have opened our eyes to see the ongoing needs of our community, which has led Letchworth Garden City Church to plan an Extra Smile Community Care Centre within the church building.

This will house our current Extra Smile Project and hopefully our new coaching and mentoring programme.

One girl to benefit from the Extra Smile project is Aliyah, writes Ali Camp. It was the term before she took her A-levels. Aliyah was a bright student who studied hard whilst working evenings and weekends, taking on as much overtime as she could to stay out of the house.

Some nights she would sleep in the car park of the service station where she worked, so she could stay safe and get away from her abuser. She was now 17, struggling financially and had little money – every wage packet she received had to be surrendered.

I will never forget the day we met her, a young girl in crisis who needed a place to stay. That evening we heard a small part of her story and how she had escaped from her abuser and was looking to journey into a future of freedom.

Four years on she has come a long way. At the age of 18, she was baptised and became part of the church family. She has received help from many organisations and is still in therapy but is studying with the Open University. The result of her past has disabled her in many ways, but she has fought courageously to keep moving forward on her road to recovery.

Aliyah says, “Meeting Ali that night four years ago was pivotal in saving my life and my decision to keep fighting. Her passion and love for God inspired hope in me. The journey hasn’t been easy, but with the love and support I have received practically, emotionally and spiritually, I trust and believe that there is a plan and a future for me as a child of God.”

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