While bringing a baby into this world can be daunting for any expectant parents, it can be even more so for many of our friends. This is in part because asylum seekers are not afforded the same rights as British citizens, such as the right to work to support themselves and their family, or the right to rent and choose their own accommodation. Moreover, according to Asylum Support Appeals Project’s factsheet, there are number of physical and social factors that create additional challenges for asylum seekers during pregnancy such poor overall health, possible underlying and unrecognised medical conditions and the psychological and medical effects of fleeing war-torn countries. According to a confidential report into maternal health conducted in 2007: ‘Women who are socially excluded, such as asylum seekers or homeless people, have a disturbingly high risk of death’.
This is what makes my job, as part of the Destitution Team, to support asylum seeking parents and their children all the more important. As Advice & Support Assistant at JRS, I feel my role is crucially about making sure expectant parents are aware of what support is out there that they can access. This could come in the form of helping them make an application for asylum accommodation or referring them to organisations that help procure baby items or even offer pre-and post-natal classes. We also get wonderful donations of pre-loved clothes, nappies and prams at JRS UK. One of my favourite tasks is to sort through donations and compile a baby bundle for friends (see the picture of newborn bundle made by JRS volunteer Mikhail).
This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and this Saturday 15th May is UN International Day of families, which focuses on the well-being of families; this year the theme being the impacts of new technologies on the well-being of families. Technology has proved invaluable for our work to keep in contact with families or pregnant friends. For example, this week I received a beautiful picture of a friend who delivered a baby boy over the weekend, with mother and baby both looking extremely well! Our team often also uses messaging apps to send or receive necessary documents for casework or referrals. While the day where we can welcome friends back into the office has not yet arrived, smartphones have provided a lifeline in the meantime!
Donate much-needed items that make up a Baby Bundle this UN International Day of Families.