Social entrepreneur joins church volunteering programme for London Olympics

A 26-year-old from Tower Hamlets, who set up her own social enterprise helping homeless people, will be part of a “flash mob” of church volunteers during the Olympics.

Lidija Mavra, who for seven years has been co-ordinating The Sock Mob, which hands out warm clothing and food and builds relationships with the capital’s homeless people is one of 2,000 people expected to volunteer for the Diocese of London during the Olympics.

The Bishop of London, Dr Richard Chartres, officially launched ‘the2012’ volunteer programme at St Pauls Cathedral last week.

Joined by seven volunteers, including Lidija, the Bishop called on young Christians across the capital to become church volunteers in the Olympic year and beyond.

Volunteers aged 13 to 35 will be drawn from parishes and church communities across the diocese before gathering in St Paul’s Cathedral next April for a commissioning service with the Bishop.

“During the Olympics the volunteers will act almost as flash mob offering support ranging from giving away free cups of water to Marathon spectators to guiding them to a nearby church for a coffee or toilet break,” explained programme co-ordinator Rev. Ruth Bushyager. The volunteers will also run children’s sports-themed holiday clubs.

The scheme is separate from the official volunteering programme by Olympic organisers although some are likely to join both.

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Lidija, of Westferry Road on the Isle of Dogs, who works as social researcher, said she was recruited through her involvement with St Paul’s church on Bow Common.

Lidija, a Serbian-Croat, from former Yugoslavia, said: “It’s an inspiring idea. It’s important the church conveys the need to be kind. It provides the potential for the church to be more involved at a grass-root level, which I think it needs to be.”

Last year Lidija added another dimension to her enterprise by providing training to homeless people to become walking tour guides.

By utilizing their historical and personal knowledge of London’s boroughs homeless people can make an income from tourists and visitors through Unseen Tours.