Several months ago we launched our ‘Christmas Card’ appeal for the third year running, asking supporters to send cards bearing messages of solidarity to those held in detention. Over the Christmas period feelings of isolation and loneliness inevitably worsen as our friends feel even further removed from their families and loved ones.
We are absolutely blown away by the overwhelming response we have had this year having received an incredible 1800 cards. This is a record number and we could never have imagined that we would more than double the total we received last year!
We are extremely grateful and would like to say a huge thank you to all of you who have written and sent cards to us, and to all the parishes and groups who have taken up this initiative so generously. It has been such a joyous few weeks unwrapping bundles of cards and sharing them with our colleagues. We have also enjoyed posting photos of particularly generous bundles on our social media channels which has helped raise awareness about our appeal and encouraged even more of you to send them in. We would like to say a special thank you to Jesuit parishioners at Stamford Hill who donated 155 cards, the Newmarket & Mildenhall Justice & Peace group who donated 123 cards, the sisters at Minster Abbey who sent us 81 cards, and students of Manchester universities organised by the Catholic Chapliancy and students of Mount St Mary’s College Jesuit prep school, Balborough Hall. These and hundreds of other cards were colourful, festive and ranged from children’s drawings, to messages of hope and solidarity.
We took the cards yesterday to Immigration removal centres Colnbrook and Harmondsworth where we visit those in detention weekly, to be distributed in time for Christmas. Inside each card we placed a small insert explaining that these cards were sent by supporters of JRS, along with a small ‘business’ card with more details of our weekly drop-in sessions we hold for our friends who we encounter in detention. This will help our friends understand where the kind messages have come from, and know that in this festive time, when it is particularly difficult to be separated and isolated from family, friends and community, there are people like you thinking of them and holding them in your prayers.
It is difficult to express how isolating it can feel being held indefinitely in prison-like conditions during what should be a time of celebration. We see the toll it takes on our friends’ mental and physical health. These wonderful messages offer a glimmer of hope in a difficult time, and will be a real source of encouragement for those we encounter in detention. We are sure this show of solidarity and support will stay with them for a very long time.
Beatrice Grasso is Detention Outreach Manager and Joanna Biernat is Communications Editorial Assistant.
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