WHILE most teenagers probably spend their Saturday nights playing video games, watching television or hanging out with their mates, Josh Raqio’s is slightly different.
The 14-year-old spends his time helping people on the streets of Southampton.
He is one of a number of unsung volunteers, many of them young people, who venture out to feed the homeless.
The homeless handouts group, called The Firelighters, is made up of around 12 people from different church groups and began about four years ago, operating in Southampton and Winchester.
Josh has been doing it in Southampton for around five months.
“I just wanted to do it because it looked fun and enjoyable,” said the Testwood Sports College pupil.
Josh’s night duties normally start around 10pm and can end around midnight.
Every Saturday night, volunteers base themselves at a car park close to a Southampton nightclub and, while some stay on the site, a group of people, including Josh and several other teenagers around his age, always accompanied by adults, go looking for homeless people.
Although some people living on the streets know of the service and come to them, Josh said otherwise they will bring the food to them instead.
The group mainly goes to the nightclubs around the city because those are the busiest places, Josh says, so that is where most of the homeless people tend to be found.
Josh gives out hot drinks and home-made curry, made by the parents connected with the church.
“I feel happy about it because I just give food to them and they really like it, they give me a smile,” said Josh.
“They say ‘thank you for doing this’.
“Sometimes we pray for them, we give booklets for them to read about Christianity.”
Josh said he always feels safe because he is in a group.
His parents are pleased that he is helping people.
He added: “The first time I tried it, I liked it.
“I have nothing to do on a Saturday night and I enjoy it. It’s pretty fun.”
Ace Niudamu, leader of the The Firelighters, said the group is not just about feeding the homeless but also about talking with them.
“They are fathers and mothers, they’re people who have families, they have gone through things in life that made them be on the streets, but when we go and sit down and listen to their stories it breaks us,” he said.
He hopes that the young people involved in the project will one day be able to take over the mantle and keep the service going into the long term.
Ace said he feels young people should be involved in the project, adding that it prevents them from becoming involved in more negative activities.
“It gives them a positive insight into helping people,” he said.
“At the end of the day the people out there are human beings like you and me.”