Each morning the JRS UK team meet virtually to update one another on our work from the day before – I often get to share news of immense generosity from donors, others share successes in reaching refugee friends with practical or emotional help, and some share the struggles that our friends are experiencing in light of the sudden lockdown we have all adhered to. While we are encouraged by the hard work of the team and our volunteers to accompany our refugee friends, there is always a reminder that the needs of our refugee friends are not only urgent and practical, but also emotional and complex. Not only did they exist before the coronavirus outbreak, due to the harsh asylum system in the UK, but they are exacerbated by the absent government support which fails to recognise them. Our refugee friends have little or no money to spend on necessities, let alone plan ahead for the uncertain weeks to come.
As the first month of food and toiletry deliveries is completed by the wonderful JRS volunteer drivers, we are planning for the coming four weeks for our friends. While our office has emptied of staff, it has been filled with long-lasting food, toiletries for men and women and generous donations. With more than 300 refugee friends being supported by JRS UK, some more vulnerable than others, we want to ensure as many needs of our friends are catered for.
JRS UK supporters lift and continue our work through prayer, physical and financial donations.
Donate now to our emergency work with refugees during COVID-19
Not only are essential goods being distributed across London to our friends, but our destitution team and policy officer are lobbying with policy makers to recognise the gaps which overlook refugees in the UK, to ensure they are:
- protected from the virus through housing schemes for the homeless,
- removed from detention where social distancing is impossible and welfare as well as casework is delayed or inaccessible,
- granted leave to remain so that they have the right to work, a sense of stability and are able to contribute essential skills which are highly sought after in this health emergency.
While our refugee friends are spending hours indoors – some alone and isolated, others seeing numerous tenants circulate through their accommodation, and some in hotel rooms in an unfamiliar part of London – JRS UK are trying to facilitate a sense of community among them all. Prayer groups meet weekly via WhatsApp, art supplies have been delivered to the doors of some friends to encourage creativity, and thanks to a kind donation from Bestway, packets of juice, milk and dates can be distributed as Ramadan begins for many of our refugee friends.
I spoke to one of our longstanding volunteers this week, who had been quick to offer to drive across London to deliver essential food parcels each week. She’s driven to parts of London she never knew of, and dropped off food and toiletries to some extremely anxious refugee friends. “People need to be aware that refugees’ lives were very very tough before all this, and they are grateful for anything.” Her summary of her experience speaks volumes, “Our refugee friends are very grateful, but they are in great need. Anything that is offered through these deliveries are really appreciated. However small or large a donation, it means so much to them”.
She also noticed that many friends live a long way from a grocery store, and realised that these deliveries are not only feeding families but are saving them a grocery trip riddled with anxiety in fear of the coronavirus.
As JRS fundraising officer, I have been so grateful to receive numerous donations, especially in the past month. I hope our supporters are able to help JRS UK again, to prepare for the weeks to come, and if not, mentioning our work to a friend or family member may increase the amount of help JRS can distribute. Our refugee friends are in urgent need; I hear examples of it each morning. Hundreds of essential deliveries, mobile phone credit top-ups, virtual meetings, as well as over-the-phone support and practical help need to be provided this coming month to more than 300 refugees. Any donation, large or small, makes an impact on the lives of our refugee friends during this crisis.
If you’ve been moved by Jess’s experience, why not donate todayand help us support vulnerable refugees across London