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Providing food for thought

AIMS: Samantha Oliver-Jamal

SAMANTHA OLIVER-Jamal has added the title of businesswoman and project leader to the list of words to describe her which includes wife, mother, grandmother, Christian and social worker.

This enterprising lady has just opened Oliver’s Food 4 Life, a Caribbean take away with a difference in Brockley, south east London.

Not only will it serve up delicious food, when ongoing work is completed, it will serve as a community hub where teenagers and young women can receive employment skills training in beauty treatments and catering, to give manicures, provide counselling, mentoring, life-skills training and parenting support.

Samantha shared the reasons why she wanted to open the girls’ project. “When my eldest daughter had her child, we went to a restaurant with all her friends. This is when I realised there was a need for this project.

“I talked to the girls and asked them what they do. There must have been 10-12 young girls in that room and every single one of them had some drama. They sat there looking so beautiful but were so messed up.”

Some were lone parents, one had a child in care because she had a break down, another had pulled her hair out when she experienced stressed. She had witnessed her father being shot and regularly saw her mother being abused by her stepfather. Many were on anti-depressants. “I thought if there’s a table full of this, what else is out of there?

“I left there and cried all the way home and I said ‘God who’s going to help them and he said you are.’” She admits that she has had to rely on God every step of the way since inheriting a shop lease from her late uncle and deciding that she was going to turn the barbers he used to run into a Caribbean food outlet.

Sam has self-funded the shop renovation, which has taken over two years. She’s also experienced the generosity of people doing the work for free or low cost, as well as strangers who’ve helped to move bulky items into the shop.

“Everything in the shop has been pure miracles. I have seen the way God has been moving.”
Since the official opening of Oliver’s – Food For Life on April 15, family and friends have given Samantha a helping hand. And Samantha is still looking for people to volunteer and support her soon to be opened girl’s project, whether it’s with finances, necessary items and teaching or counselling support.

She believes this project is God inspired. “It’s my faith that’s kept me through this project. This is God. I would have given up if I hadn’t seen God in action.”

It’s Sam’s aim that she does her uncle proud and that the training and life skills arm of Oliver’s Food 4 Life is up and running by the end of this year.

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