As my first month at JRS UK as the new Destitution Services Manager draws to a close, I find myself looking back with a sense of wonder: was it really only one month since I started? In a way, I already feel that I have been here for a long time – this is undoubtedly due to how welcoming everyone at JRS has been, how much it feels like a family.
“Welcome to JRS – they are my family!”
It is this sense of community and connection between individuals that I find most compelling about the work of JRS UK. Like anybody starting a new job, my first few weeks have been spent getting to know everyone: staff, volunteers and refugee friends. While remembering so many names has been a challenge, it is amazing to see that even within a few weeks of my new role, I have started to recognise and to be recognised by many friends of JRS through a language that is universal: that of a smile, a kind word, a sense of kinship.
The language of welcome.
On our first meeting, one of our refugee friends greeted me with a smile, a warm handshake and these words: “Welcome to JRS – they are my family! We are happy to have you here with us.’’
It was heart-warming to be received with such kindness and generosity. It has reminded me how valuable and essential it is to make someone feel welcome. To me, the concept of welcome carries with it a sense of warmth, of being embraced, accepted and cared for. At JRS, this rests at the core of our services: the ‘Welcome Desk’ at our Day Centre, our hosting scheme ‘At Home’, our peer support activities or lovely shared meals! – to name but a few. It is also how many of our refugee friends have described JRS and the Day Centre to me – it is where they feel at home – a warm, friendly shelter where they can find a sense of peace and community against the backdrop of a hostile environment which causes so much needless suffering and turmoil.
Interested in volunteering at the JRS UK Day Centre? Get in Touch!
Having spaces like our Day Centre where every week people can come to be greeted with a smile, a cup of tea, a hot lunch and a friendly chat – this is more needed than ever. Making someone feel welcome and appreciated creates light against encroaching darkness and fosters hope and friendship against hostility and hate. At JRS UK we accompany, serve and advocate for a better, more just asylum process. How we all welcome and relate to refugees is of paramount importance and speaks volumes of our humanity.
Let us not forget to be kind. Let us remember to welcome someone the way we would like to be welcomed.
We should all become fluent in the language of welcome.