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CHRISTIAN LIFE IN LONDON | SEPTEMBER 2020 EDITION
Ark Aid Mission: Striving to Serve
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By Kristine Abramoff



Ark Aid Mission began almost 40 years ago as a gaming arcade youth mission that aimed to serve primarily street involved youth. Ark Aid was created by a man who had formerly been incarcerated and felt strongly about helping people early enough in life that they could avoid the path he had followed. It has been strongly faith based from the very beginning, and continues to show God’s love to the needy within the London community.

Ark Aid’s mission has shifted towards serving the homeless, marginalized, and impoverished, and providing for the basic needs of people who are living in deep poverty. These people might be experiencing economic poverty, community poverty, or have no family connections, church family, or other people looking out for them at all. Around half of them are without a home, and others need basic necessities like food, clothes, and connection with others. About 40 churches across the city support Ark Aid by donating food, clothing, and resources so that they can continue to help those in need.



Sarah Campbell, Ark Aid’s executive director, says that they strive to serve the community with the love of Jesus. Their aim is not to proselytize; they focus instead on being a strong service-oriented mission. Ark Aid believes that when they serve people with Christ’s love, they will experience that little “extra” that comes with being served by someone who knows an everlasting source of grace and love. This means that people usually hear the story of Jesus through personal relationships. The volunteers working at Ark Aid are exceptional people who share hope through their unique stories. Some volunteers have had a rough history with incarceration and homelessness or are even currently homeless, and Sarah says that it is incredible to see God’s love being demonstrated as God works with and through these amazing volunteers.

During normal times, church teams serve the evening meal. Pre-COVID, there were roughly 100 volunteers for the dinner services and 100 serving in other capacities. There are only three regular paid staff, so the volunteers play a huge part in the ministry and service work done at Ark Aid. They also focus on supporting the community in areas like advocacy (with landlords, legal issues, phone bills, and managing other difficulties), and outreach (checking in on people who are at home, setting up medical appointments and accompanying people to them, and helping people navigate housing systems).

Ark Aid also provides clothing and household items through the Arkware store, where people can choose to either buy an item or get it for free. These ministries ensure that the basic needs of the community are met. However, this structure was forced to change with the start of the COVID pandemic in March.

Ark Aid’s strategy throughout the pandemic has been to meet the needs of its community in the best ways it can while following public health measures to prevent the spread of COVID.

During phase 2, Ark Aid was able to hire two outreach workers through a London Community Foundation grant, and they started to keep track of the names and addresses or locations of people they were serving in order to prepare for distributing food and checking on their community during a potential second wave. They also started a cooling and misting tent, which was very helpful for those with no other place to cool down on hot summer days. Now, during phase 3, they have opened their doors with physically distanced, limited table sizes, and limited capacity within the building to create an indoor cooling centre. Ark Aid has doubled their water use to keep people hydrated and cool, hours have expanded so that there is more indoor time, and a group of twenty volunteers a day run the various programs.

Looking into winter, Sarah says that they are anticipating the same protocols being in place, so they will be opening and expanding the dining room to make more space. Volunteers will be serving people at the tables, and meals will be starting earlier in the day to allow two supper meals to be served, since the number of people indoors has to be limited. This will ensure that the Ark Aid community will have access to as many resources as they can while still staying safe.

Sarah encourages those who are interested in Ark Aid’s work to visit at any time. All are welcome, and interested people can volunteer, donate, or just come by to learn more about what Ark Aid does. One way to support Ark Aid Mission might be right in your own backyard; Sarah says that garden produce is always appreciated, as fruits and vegetables are included in every meal. Fresh baked goods are also a special treat for the Ark Aid community, and of course, packaged snack foods, water bottles, and juice boxes are always in high demand now that systems have changed due to COVID.

For more information about Ark Aid Mission, visit arkaidmission.com.






COMMUNITY DIRECTORY