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'We don't sell religion' at the London 2012 site

Kelvin Woolmer
Reverend Kelvin Woolmer is the London 2012 chaplain at Stratford

By Claire Timms
BBC London

Former Met police officer Reverend Kelvin Woolmer is the London 2012 Olympics chaplain but he is not looking for recruits.

Since taking on the role in 2006 he has gone from being regarded with suspicion as "some bloke in a dog collar" to being the the first point of contact in times of stress, worry or joy.

"My role, and that of my team is not to go into the site and make converts, it is not even to evangelise. The role is one of pastoral support to the workforce, think of it as an extension of being an "Army Chaplain" to the troops.

"The work has grown exponentially and the attitude towards why we are here has changed immensely," said Kelvin, 55.

Lend an ear

He says the issues workers want to discuss with him are wide and varied.

I absolutely love this job - talking to people and helping them to work through their problems.
Reverend Kelvin Woolmer

"One chap from Liverpool had a wife back home who was pregnant and he was concerned as he'd missed ante-natal classes. I'm a father of three so was able to lend an ear and offer advice. I was one of the first people he called when the baby was born. I was very touched.

"I have spoken with people who have faced redundancy and who having come to the end of their particular contract in these times of economic depression have found they have simply no job to go to and don't know how they are going to pay their bills.

"I have shared the grief of men and women who knew Sean Scully who was killed by an accident in the Westfield zone last year, and for the last two years have led a carol concert in the Westfield canteens for the construction workers."

There are between 15,000 and 20,000 workers on all the construction sites combined and Kelvin says on an extreme day, he can talk to a dozen or so people.

Ordination

The industry has often attracted former service men and women and some show signs of post-traumatic stress as a result of their experiences on active duty.

"One fella came to me looking ashen-faced saying he could smell "dead bodies". It turns out he was out in Bosnia and one of his jobs was using a similar digger (to the one he used on the Olympic site) to uncover all the buried bodies during the conflict. I referred him to an army hospital for help."

Kelvin was an officer in the Met Police for 30 years and was ordained while still at Tower Hamlets police station in 2001.

After the 9/11 atrocities in New York he was asked to be borough chaplain as many police staff had gone to him to talk about their feelings and express their fears about terrorism.

Immense pride

After leaving the force he applied for the 2012 Olympics chaplain role and hasn't looked back.

"I absolutely love this job - talking to people and helping them to work through their problems. It's a privilege to have a job where I can sit and listen to people. I've put on three stone since taking on the job - everyone knows they can come and find me in the canteen!"

On being part of the whole Olympics experience, Kelvin said: "The ethic on this site is "we are creating something important".

"There is an enormous pride on the site in being part of this project and that extends to workers from abroad. They are immensely proud."




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