At the newly-opened JRS shop, refugee friends can browse shelves of food, toiletries, clothes and other items. In this blog, Megan explains how this offers choice, agency and hospitality in stark contrast to the Government’s proposed Nationality and Borders Bill.
The Gift of Choice
Throughout the lockdowns, JRS volunteers delivered food and toiletry parcels to refugee friends across London. Whilst our volunteers did their best to pack each one according to refugee friends’ likes and dislikes, it wasn’t the same as if they were able to choose for themselves. So, the newly-opened JRS Shop offers refugee friends greater autonomy. This is in stark contrast to the confines placed by the Home Office on those seeking asylum – over where they live, their ability to work, and their day-to-day existence.
One refugee friend recently told us she prefers smooth peanut butter to crunchy, but she had felt that was something too small to mention when JRS volunteers were providing home-delivered parcels. But now she enjoys visiting the shop, as it means she can choose between the two.
Enabling people to choose means not making assumptions about their character, interests or preferences. We were given a light-hearted reminder of this when we opened the shop and discovered that tinned sardines – something we had only packed in parcels as a substitute for tuna – were one of our most popular items.
Help stock the JRS Shop with nutrious pantry staples – from srdines to peanut butter – for refugee friends to choose from.
The Gift of Being Alongside
I often see JRS’s ministry of welcome in the small acts of volunteers: helping someone across the thre
shold; knowing how a refugee friend takes their coffee without needing to ask; sourcing the right cable so they can charge their phone; sitting in the quiet together for an hour – present, but not needing to talk.
“There’s one important rule: think what the Home Office would do if they opened that door, and do the opposite: smile, be interested, be helpful, try to understand.”
Father Mike Smith SJ
Working in the shop, whether you are welcoming refugee friends, sorting through donations or making the coffee, is more than simply providing a service. It is an embodiment of our mission to accompany.
Our refugee friends may feel helpless in the hands of our asylum system. And we often feel powerless to help them concretely. At those times, it’s tempting to become occupied with something practical like restocking the shelves.
But staying with people in that moment – being with and not simply doing for – is truly what it means to accompany.
Ways You Can Make a Difference
Write to your MP asking them to oppose the Nationality and Borders Bill so that our asylum system as a whole can offer refugees the welcome they deserve.
Pray for the JRS Shop, for our volunteers and partners – that we would be able to meet the material, emotional and spiritual needs of all who visit.