The JRS UK team are meeting daily to update each other on our work as we find new ways to support more than 300 of our refugee friends in an ongoing way during the current crisis. It is an uncertain time for everyone, our office is unaware of when we can return to the Day Centre and serve our friends face-to-face, but what has been encouraging throughout the past five weeks has been your support.
Since launching the Refugee Friends’ Hardship Fund, to help cover expenses we had not foreseen at the beginning of 2020, there have been numerous donations day after day, leaving our team in awe of your generosity.
A donation of any amount, large and small, has a direct impact. It allows the team to:
- Provide £10 mobile credit top-ups
- Parcel food and toiletries to be delivered to friends, essential for surviving the lockdown while shops are emptied by those able to stockpile
- Cover costs for volunteers to drive around London delivering these essentials to our most vulnerable refugee friends
- Reach out to our refugee friends over the phone to provide practical support like housing, legal advice, updates about how to stay safe as well as emotional support during an isolating time.
It’s been five weeks and our Hardship Fund has already received immense generosity from donors who have supported JRS for years, as well as from people who had never heard from us before, but recognised the needs of some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
Our refugee friends scattered around London have also been touched by the JRS family’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. From the beginning you, along with families, professionals, churches, religious communities, funders, organisations, businesses and foundations and JRS staff and volunteers have all been adamant that our friends would not feel abandoned.
Pope Francis spoke these words as he celebrated Easter Mass last week, as he reflected on the most unique Easter season that our world has seen in a long time.
“May the hearts of those who have enough be open to filling the empty hands of those who do not have the bare necessities.”
Thank you. Thank you for giving what you have, money, time and physical donations, to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our refugee friends. Our friends, without access to government benefits and employment rely on your support. Already having endured so much suffering to leave their country and family to seek life in the UK, only to struggle with our harsh asylum system, are now feeling isolated and fearful more than ever before.
Since the lockdown measures in London took effect, thanks to you:
- more than 100 food and toiletry parcels have been delivered to refugee friends around London, with more being distributed each week
- more than 100 friends have had their mobile phone credit topped up to make local and international calls, text messages and access data
- 42 people who are in, or have recently been released from, detention are being accompanied through over-the-phone support, thanks to JRS staff and volunteers
- Virtual groups have been created on Whatsapp and Zoom to continue the Men and Women’s prayer groups, facilitated by religious volunteers, as well as provide a forum to stay in touch for the creative arts and community kitchen groups
- scores of friends facing street homelessness are being referred and supported by our caseworkers, and receiving emotional help over the phone on a regular basis.
These support services over the past few weeks have allowed refugee friends to contact loved ones here and overseas, keep up to date on how to stay safe, are helping friends contact emergency housing options, and allows them to contact JRS UK for support. And it’s impossible without you.
As the health crisis continues, so do the needs of our refugee friends, and while we work to ensure these services remain accessible for as long as is needed, our gratitude for your support is summed up well by a response from a refugee friend being notified he has received a mobile credit top up from JRS UK:
“It’s fantastic and very helpful…a massive THANK YOU for your help and support. Please do keep safe and once again THANK YOU!!”
If you haven’t donated already, and would like to help us continue supporting our refugee friends, please donate to our Refugee Hardship Fund, or visit our current needs page to donate physical items