“Refugees are people like anyone else, like you and me. They led ordinary lives before becoming displaced, and their biggest dream is to be able to live normally again. On this World Refugee Day, let us recall our common humanity, celebrate tolerance and diversity and open our hearts to refugees everywhere.”
Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary-General (2015 message)
Today, 20 June, is World Refugee Day – an international observance “where the world commemorates the strength, courage, and resilience of millions of refugees” (UNHCR). Over 59 million people around the world are now estimated to have been displaced from their homes. Within that number, there are an approximate 20 million refugees, half of whom are under the age of 18.
As a church, we are actively involved with the Refugee Response over in ‘the jungle’ in Calais, where currently there are around 2500 to 3000 people living in tents, makeshift huts, and caravans. Our Greenlight team has been going over twice a month since September last year doing waste management, including maintaining and cleaning our two sanitation units that are being used by hundreds of refugees every day.
Recently, we have started working with the Refugee Council, a leading UK charity established 60 years ago that works directly with refugees supporting and empowering them to rebuild their lives. Our work currently focuses on unaccompanied minors and age disputed youth. The Age Dispute Project a specialised project working with young people whose age is disputed by either the Home Office or by local authorities.
An estimated 4000 unaccompanied child refugees have reached the UK and for most, they arrive in the UK alone and in need of basic items such as shoes, clothing, and toiletries. In partnership with the Refugee Council, we are providing welcome packs for unaccompanied minors who come to the UK. Every quarter, packs will be sent to the Refugee Council to support them in their work with unaccompanied minors. Local impact items collected at Colour Conference this year are also added to the packs.
We are also starting to organise monthly workshops for approximately 30 refugee youths at Croydon centre helping to teach them a life or creative skill. Subjects include, for example, finance or leadership, or a creative skills such as dance or dance or acting. Our desire is to see these workshops help us place value on refugee youth that come here without parents, and to help them integrate with and understand UK culture.
Out of our Heart for the House offering, we have bought several items for the recreation area for unaccompanied minors that come to a youth centre in Croydon including a foosball table, bean bags, tables, a pool table, and office supplies.
How you can help
If you’d like to contribute to our work with The Refugee Council, you can help us complete welcome packs by purchasing items through our Amazon wish list.
Contribute to the Welcome packs or give online by clicking here
There are several ways you can get involved by volunteering – find out more here