The Lighthouse In Woking
Located at 10 High Street, close to Woking Station, you will find a remarkable example of what a few dedicated people can do with vision and a mission. In 2011 Erik Jespersen, who had been ordained and wanted to help people in difficult straits, decided that he and his wife, with the help of volunteers, could turn an unused near-derelict four-storey building into a place where they could establish Jigsaw, a place for mothers and children. The owners of the building said it could be demolished for development within 3-6 months. 11 years later that may yet happen. But meanwhile, from that beginning has evolved a community hub which helps transform the lives of people of all ages who are experiencing some form of poverty, whether in financial terms or in relationships. The aim is to get people to believe in themselves again. Six permanent staff and around 300 volunteers run this charity under the Emmaus Transformation Trust. It is open Monday to Thursday 10.30-12.30 and on a normal day 90-100 people will visit the premises. On the ground floor is a food bank, fruit for free and every three days for those who can prove they need it, a free made-up food parcel. People can sit round tables and chat. They can obtain advice on financial matters: in 16 months £200,000 of unaffordable debt has been resolved. Downstairs is an area full of free books and toys. Upstairs there are men and women’s clothing sections, a hairdressing and manicure area, a quiet room, and the Cosy Café where food and drink can be bought, any profit going to help run the operation. In another part of the next floor, some will be cooking or learning to cook and bake. There are three satellite hubs in the Woking area and support has come from the local council, the Community Foundation for Surrey and private donations. In Guildford soon there will be a trial hub starting up.
The Lighthouse provides help in ways. It is a noble and inspirational enterprise. Erik believes in equal dignity for all. The open and spacious hall and the volunteers with their T-shirts emblazoned with “WELCOME” immediately reassures people that whoever they are, this is a place where they can feel equal and be given the assistance they may require. Thank you Erik for inviting me over and for showing me what very beneficial work is being done.