A FORMER bridal shop in the middle of Shaw is home to a unique church whose aid and religious teaching has touched thousands of lives halfway round the world.
Dovetales Christian Centre on Beal Lane was founded nearly three decades ago by an ex fireman and personal assistant at Oldham-published ‘World’s Fair’ magazine.
But life for Bill and Janet Heap over the past 27 years is a world away from their previous careers.
For 23 of those 27 years since starting Dovetales on Maygate in Westwood, the devoted couple has travelled to India, mainly to the Andhra Pradesh region, administering practical help to impoverished villagers in rural communities.
Only in recent times because of health issues have they had to oversee their extensive projects from their current base in Shaw.
In addition to spreading the Christian faith, Bill and Janet immersed themselves in helping the under-privileged.
“First and foremost we preach the gospel,” explained Janet.
“We work closely with village pastors and have been instrumental in starting 50 churches.
“However, we also show the love of god in a practical way.
“We have been instrumental in sinking more than 40 bore wells, giving each village clean, safe drinking water, toilet and shower facilities.
“Most of this has been done hand-in-hand with Water Aid.
“We have also set up 10 adult training centres because poverty is usually rooted through the lack of education.
“It’s a 10-month course and at the end of it, they receive a bible.
“From that we ended up setting up 20 village schools as the teachers who took the adult classes also came in the morning for the kids.
“In this way we have got many children into a village school.
“Or, alternatively, the village elder will write to the government and ask for a school in a particular village.”
Bill, a pastor himself, and Janet have also involved themselves over 20 years with several projects offering help to street children in Andhra Pradesh.
“We have seen them grow up, get married and have children of their own,” said Janet. “Some of them even waited until we got there so Bill could marry them.”
The Heaps have provided micro business loans enabling entrepreneurial youngsters to obtain raw materials to further their skill sets.
Other village girls have undertaken tailoring courses at the end of which they receive a sewing machine, cotton, scissors and other items to branch out on their own.
There are also the medical clinics established soon after their first trip to the sub continent.
“We have had queues all day from people wanting to see a doctor,” revealed Janet.
“It is very rewarding and gratifying to think thousands have been helped over time.”
In addition to providing help in India, the couple spent nearly 10 years helping supply aid to Romania and Moldova, with Bill driving the items to eastern Europe.
Recently though they have concentrated their work in Oldham, opening the current Dovetales Centre last February.
“We have plenty to keep us busy here,” smiled Janet. “But we also know the work in India will keep going too.
“There are people in certain positions that maintain everything for us. And with technology we are always able to keep in touch via Facebook or Face Time.”
To find out more about Dovetales you can attend Wednesday afternoon drop-in meetings, there’s an Over 60s Club on Thursdays from 1-3pm plus a Sunday service from 10.30am.