Impressive as Barcelona’s Champions’ League win in 2006 was, it was particularly honourable given their kit sponsorship deal with Unicef. At the other end of the football spectrum, St John’s College Football Club has attempted to do the same this year, with local homeless charity ‘The Gatehouse’ on their shirts.
To get a better understanding of the charity, and the great work that it does in Oxford, captain Mike Newland took the first team on Tuesday to spend a few hours with the staff and the guests. It was a touching insight into life outside of the college walls. It is easy to forget that Oxford is a city as a well as a university, and that it has the same problems as anywhere else in Britain. Homelessness is one of these.
Oxford is therefore lucky to have an organisation as good as The Gatehouse. Located in an old Baptist church – Northgate Hall – on St Michael’s Street, it provides meals, newspapers and internet access to all its guests. Just as importantly, it is a safe and warm environment for those who need it. It is currently involved in a project to provide showers on Saturdays.
On the given evening, the St John’s team were shown around by the Director, Andrew Smith. Four of the team were then sent to pick up the evening meal and distribute it. A number of local businesses make generous contributions to the charity for meals, in particular: Pizza Hut, Pret a Manger and Boots. They then, under the direction of the more experienced volunteers, distributed the food to the guests. Centre forward James Earle said: “I know that it was more of a learning exercise than a helping one, but even seeing other people put so much into helping the disadvantaged was itself immensely rewarding”.
The Gatehouse has only one full-time, and three part-time paid staff. It could not operate without the help of volunteers. Volunteering there is very popular with Oxford students. St John’s skipper Mike Newland can see why: “Having seen the great work they do, and how rewarding it is to volunteer, I understand why”.