On 26 January we held our first event of the year, the hugely popular Refugee Volunteer Evening. We welcomed over a hundred people from all over London and Hertfordshire, all keen to hear how local organisations are responding to the migrant crisis.
The evening began with a meet and greet with individuals from a number of refugee and migrant organisations. Everyone had the opportunity to visit the stalls, find out about volunteering opportunities and talk to people who are on the front line of migrant services in the Diocese of Westminster. The atmosphere was lively as people jumped at the chance to share their gifts and talents with people who want to make the Diocese their home.
The highlight of the event was our panel on volunteering with refugees and migrants. We heard how members of the panel have been inspired by their faith to reach out to asylum seekers in UK detention centres, to people living in the Jungle in Calais, and to the Bangladeshi community in Tower Hamlets. John Coleby, Director of Caritas Westminster, called on the audience to rise to the challenge of welcoming migrants and refugees into our community. He said that the answer to the migrant crisis is not ‘how can I help?’ but ‘yes, I can help’: it is up to each of us to find ways of getting involved and sharing our gifts with migrants and refugees.
The contributions from the audience members were equally inspiring. A member of the Jewish community celebrated the importance of interfaith community in social action, and another individual reminded us that we have all been strangers in a strange land at some time in our lives, and we must remember this when responding to the migrant crisis. Even when the panel and discussion came to an end, lots of people stayed behind to share their ideas and responses with each other and staff from refugee organisations.
Thank you for all the wonderful feedback we have received. We hope to hold another refugee event after Easter to update you on the situation both in the Diocese and abroad, and we look forward to welcoming you then.
If you would like updates from us, or if you would like help with setting up a refugee project, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our thanks to our inspirational panel:
- Cliff Cohen, Migrant Help
- Sister Christine, Neighbours in Poplar
- Louise Zanré, Jesuit Refugee Service UK
- Michaela Costello, Guardian Angels pilgrimage to Calais
And many thanks to our stalls from:
- Ashford Place
- Austin Forum
- Jewish Volunteer Network
- London Catholic Worker
- New North London Synagogue
- Notre Dame Refugee Centre
- Watford and Three Rivers Refugee Partnership
- West London Synagogue
- Westminster Welcome Boxes