In 2019, Romy Gill met Randeep Singh, CEO of NishkamSWAT (Sikh Welfare & Awareness Team). 10 years previous, Randeep and his colleagues had a moment of realisation. More than 200 people in their immediate local community were living without a home. They were hidden from normal life, living beneath bridges or in refuse collection rooms. Together, they decided they could do something to help them, and they begun a project cooking hot meals and sourcing food donations.
But they didn't stop there. NishkamSWAT was only in it's infancy. More than a decade on, Randeep and his central team now co-ordinate a fleet of vans, and more than 1000 volunteers, who gather several times a week to provide food and drinks, health services and support at locations across the country and the world. The project comes from the Sikh concept of 'Langar', a volunteer run kitchen found in Sikh temples, and inspired by the message of Guru Nanak. But this is food for anyone who needs it.
Then in March 2020, Covid-19 struck and the UK went into lockdown. Suddenly the number of people out on the streets increased, with many people who'd been working in hospitality suddenly out of work. So how have Randeep and his 'different kind of SWAT team' managed to keep running the food service which so many have come to rely on? In this programme, we hear Romy Gill cooking with volunteers, and serving people in central London last year. And Randeep tells how his team have managed to keep their food service going under challenging circumstances. Romy also speaks to chef Ravinder Bhogal of Jikoni restaurant, one of the chefs inspired to help.
Presented by Sheila Dillon with Romy Gill.
Produced by Clare Salisbury.
A BBC Audio Bristol production for Radio 4