This winter, UK based charity Refugee Action are asking congregations to rise up for refugees. They tell us how the charity helped Joseph, a Congolese refugee who now calls Britain his home.
When Joseph, his wife Angelique and their infant son first arrived in the UK, they could not wait to begin their lives again. Originally from Congo, they spent 10 years living in a refugee camp in Burundi before being relocated to the UK.
Refugee Action were there for the family when they needed it most. Now settled in their new home, Joseph and his family live a peaceful life. Active in their church and learning English, they are supported by a community of neighbours and church friends. Tragically, this is not the case for many refugees and asylum seekers who arrive in the UK.
It’s no secret that we are living in the worst refugee crisis in our lifetime. There are now over 70 million people across the world who have been forcibly displaced from their homes. Persecution, violence and war leave people like Joseph and his family with no choice but to flee their home countries and everything they know.
Many people seeking safety arrive in the UK with nothing at all. They have battled through long and difficult journeys, determined to reach a place of safety. But for too many, the trauma continues when they reach their destination.
Imagine that you have travelled across whole continents to reach a country that you hope will protect you. Once you arrive you apply for refugee status, which would allow you to stay and work in the UK. This process takes a long time, sometimes years. During this time, you are not permitted to work to earn money. On top of this, there are some people don’t believe that refugees and people seeking asylum should be allowed in our country. These people make you feel unsafe and unwelcome.
Thankfully, this was not the case for Joseph. When Joseph and his family first arrived in the UK, Refugee Action were there for them. They were welcomed and supported as they found their way around their new city. Refugee Action offer support with everything from using household appliances and buying food, to learning English and connecting with local community groups and churches.
“Refugee Action is great. And I feel that they love me,” Joseph says. “Our case worker is great. She is very helpful. If we didn’t have her, there is a lot we could not have done”.
With the support of Refugee Action, a generous community of neighbours and their local church, Joseph and his family were given the support they needed to restart their lives here the UK.
“Back home, sometimes we struggled to get the food we want – but here, we no longer have to deal with this kind of hardship,” Joseph explains.
“I have very good neighbours. My neighbours help us with so many things. They taught be how to cut the grass. They also gave my children many toys for the garden. They are very good neighbours and it makes me happy. I always feel that they do things from the heart.”
“I play keyboard in church. I did it before and I am now doing the same in the UK, it is local African Christian churches. When I play music, I remember my home and my friends – It is nice that I can do this here and play songs from back home. Through church, we have met new people and made friends. We meet outside the church as well. It makes us very happy.”
This autumn and winter, Refugee Action are asking faith groups to rise up for refugees like Joseph. By taking action and sharing your humanity this winter, you will ensure that people like Joseph get the support and kindness that they deserve as refugees living in Britain. You will be raising lifechanging funds for people in desperate need, and helping to make sure that the UK is a country that truly welcomes refugees.
To organise a collection with your congregation this winter, you can sign up here: www.refugee-action.org.uk/keepthefaith. The team at Refugee Action will be in touch with advice and resources to support your collection, including a poster to promote your collection, sermon notes, facts about refugees and Gift Aid envelopes.
Refugee Action was founded in 1981, in response to the arrival of refugees from Vietnam to the UK. For nearly forty years, they have supported refugees to build new lives in Britain, and campaigned for their rights. The charity has a long history of supporting refugees to begin their new lives in the UK, and they work tirelessly to ensure that refugees and people seeking asylum can get justice, live free from poverty and rebuild their lives here in the UK. If you would prefer to donate directly to Refugee Action’s work, you can do so by visiting www.refugee-action.org.uk/donate.