Along with his wife Heather, Lenox volunteered for a number of years with the homeless in Manchester. When people couldn’t get places in rehabs for various reasons Lenox accommodated them in the family house for up to 6 months and supported them with coming off heroin, alcohol and dealing with general life issues In 2003 Lenox and his wife made the massive step of re-mortgaging their home in order to purchase a centre in Hulme to continue their work. The building was in a bad state inside and whilst Lenox and Heather were working to get it into a fit state a number of children came to see what we were doing. They asked Lenox and Heather to do something for them so they started opening two evenings a week. Even though they had very little equipment apart from and old table football game over 20 children were turning up regularly. This caused the shift in focus from rehab to preventative work with local children and young people.
The centre, known as the Rainbow Christian Centre, is now open six evenings a week and offers a range of activities and support for young people. The centre is at the heart of the community and Lenox provides inspiration, especially for the young men, helping them see that there are alternatives in life away from the gangs. Lenox has supported young people with housing, benefits, education, apprenticeships, prison visiting, court appearances, family liaison, debt etc, responding to the needs of people in a flexible way and helping them to help themselves.
Over 600 children and young people have been through the doors, many of the original children are grown up and still visit, or now volunteer themselves, or bring their children.
Jack is the project manager of Student Action’s weekly soup kitchen, having become involved in the project in 2010. Each week Jack organises a team of volunteers to prepare fresh food and drinks before taking them into the city centre to distribute to those in greatest need. The service ensures that the homeless who use it eat well at least once a week.
However, the service he provides is much more than a place to get a meal. He offers a protective environment for the homeless a place that they can go each week to share their concerns and their problems. His detailed knowledge of the services available (obtained by various means including meetings with members of the City Council) can make a huge difference to those he helps. He has also steered the soup run through some extremely rocky times, when the sale of land for development meant that the kitchen had to move. He spent much of his own time looking at possible venues to host the kitchen, to ensure that it was in a safe place for both volunteers and homeless alike. Above all though, Jack has gained the trust and respect of the homeless. They see him as someone they can rely on, and someone who is actually a friend.
Jack’s dedication to the homeless has also seen him successfully complete a 55 mile fundraising walk twice, helping raise much-needed funds to enhance the soup kitchen.
In 2007, following a visit to Kenya, Estelle founded the charity KIN (Kibera in Need) which supports projects in the vast Kibera slum, Nairobi, Kenya. Kibera is home to up to 1m people who live in desperate conditions of poor housing and sanitation, high unemployment, HIV/AIDS and low school attendance. Many children are unable to go to school because of lack of school fees.
KIN is linked with the Kenyan NGO Riziki. In 2007 Riziki's main project was a small feeding programme for about 50 Kibera residents providing their main weekend meal each Saturday, with only intermittent funding. KIN was initially founded to support this project. However since 2007, the two organisations have worked together to grow the projects in Kibera. KIN now helps Riziki run an Education Support Scheme, a Child Guardianship Scheme, Microfinance and a series of seminars giving guidance on parenting, reproductive health, career choice etc and vocational training. KIN is also about to begin a project delivering solar lighting. Around 220 children and young people have received direct support. There are 800 plus small business clients and the feeding programme has continued and now feeds 200 children and caregivers each week, with the very needy receiving a food pack.
Estelle voluntarily runs KIN in the UK as well as visiting Kibera twice yearly to support the Riziki team. The UK work involves significant time fundraising through events such as Sapphire Balls, Quiz Nights, Race Nights and Christmas Parties as well as exploring funding opportunities with trusts and foundations. Estelle is also in the process of rolling out an education programme for UK schools to teach about life in Kibera.