Anonymous donor supports Bayan with her GCSE home schooling

Here’s a lovely story for Refugee week. On hearing of one young lady’s struggles to keep up her studies during lockdown, a kind benefactor from a church group in St. Helens immediately promised to make sure that Bayan could fully engage with online classes. Just two days later a brand new laptop arrived. Bayan told us, “I am so happy with my new laptop. I want to say thank you to the person who gave it to me.”
Born in Aleppo, Bayan arrived in Liverpool as a 13 year old after spending the previous 4 years in a refugee camp in the Lebanon. Since then she has worked hard to learn English and to keep up with her schoolwork. This gift will certainly be a great help to Bayan as she works towards her GCSEs.

Bayan with her new laptop

Coronavirus and Calais refugees: How can you stay safe without soap?

“There is sickness and we can’t wash our hands” – Iranian refugee.

France has been in lockdown since 16 March with strict rules limiting movement outside homes but what does this mean if you haven’t actually got a home?
There are around 1200 refugees living rough in the pas-de-Calais region. They are in constant fear about their health and supplies of food and water as COVID-19 takes away much of the support they had.
Care4Calais (C4C) is a volunteer run charity delivering essential aid and support to refugees across Northern France and Belgium. It is a charity well known to many staff and students at Edge Hill who have raised funds or worked for the charity as volunteers.
These refugees live in very poor conditions, exposed to the elements with a poor diet and a lack of readily available medical care. They are now living in constant fear of the virus due to the lack of running water and soap. An emergency appeal by Care4Calais recently resulted in a fast response from three companies, The House of Botanicals (a gin distillery in Aberdeen), International Water Solutions in Romford and L’Oréal Paris. However, there is a constant need to replenish supplies as the French authorities deny access to running water for washing.
Since the start of the lockdown, many of the NGOs who previously provided essential support to these already vulnerable people have made the difficult, but understandable decision to suspend their operations. One of these, Refugee Community Kitchen had provided hot meals to refugees in the area every single day since December 2015.
Recently, C4C surveyed 150 refugees across Calais and Dunkirk to gather data on the impacts of Covid-19. The results are interesting.
Almost half (48%) of those surveyed have been in Calais for three months or less. This is a reminder of how transitory the population is. It contrasts with ideas of a ‘permanent’ unwanted presence in the region.
Coronavirus was a primary concern for only 14 of the 150 refugees who responded. Nearly three times as many said they were most fearful for their most basic needs of food, sanitation, shelter or clothing. How can this be? Perhaps when you don’t know where your next meal is coming from, a potential illness no matter how threatening, becomes secondary.
As the lockdown has continued, C4C has had to focus almost entirely on supplying food. The regular distribution of clean clothes and supplies of washing facilities more or less ceased resulting in many refugees having to survive wearing the same dirty clothes for weeks. This has resulted in a rise of conditions associated with a lack of basic hygiene. The need for clean clothing including footwear is a major concern for the refugees while C4C’s ability to meet this need has been compromised by the difficulties in obtaining donations and the lack of volunteers needed to deliver them.
C4C’s survey also showed that most people (86%) had serious reservations about using the shelters set up by the French authorities. This was mostly because the refugees knew this would mean abandoning their dreams of reaching the UK but also because they feared heightened exposure to coronavirus in confined spaces.
The refugees are in more need than ever before. Please consider donating to the Care4Calais appeal to help those in dire need.

Images from Care4Calais https://care4calais.org/

RefuAid Language Scholarship Programme set for Liverpool launch

Mohib Ullah, who is leading on the project for RefuAid told us, “We are working with one of our partner schools in Liverpool and will be starting an OET (Occupational English Test accepted by the General Medical Council as an alternative to IELTS for re-qualification) course for healthcare professionals after Easter. The course will be 6 hours a week and will initially run for 6 weeks, starting on Wednesday the 24th of April. We welcome applications from refugee/asylum seeker doctors, nurses and midwives etc. They can also email me in person at mohib@refuaid.org I will be happy to answer any questions they may have. During the course, we will pay travel expenses up to £500, and the exam fee when applicants are deemed as exam-ready by their tutors.”

Action for Refugees think that this is a brilliant initiative with potentially great benefits to candidates and the communities they will serve. We wish RefuAid every success with this important programme.

RefuAid seminar results in action for refugees

Anna Jones, co-founder of RefuAid, at the Action for Refugees seminar at Edge Hill University.

Delegates to the RefuAid seminar held at Edge Hill University’s Ormskirk campus on 20 March were enthralled by the presentations, not least by the moving testimony given by former client Naima, who told us about her former life in Libya and the role played by RefuAid in turning her life around. RefuAid co-founder, Anna Jones, explained how the organisation provides practical support to refugees and asylum seekers in key areas of access to language support, education and employment.

Dentist and former RefuAid client Naima shared her powerful story with us.

The audience for the seminar included academic and support staff at EHU as well as visitors from the local community. It was particularly pleasing to welcome a number of refugees and asylum seekers on campus.

Immediately following the presentations, delegates were able to engage in discussion with both the RefuAid representatives and Action for Refugees group members. Much of this discussion concerned the practical support that delegates from our refugee community wanted from RefuAid and from Edge Hill University.

Feedback from delegates has been overwhelmingly positive with many delegates taking the time to thank the presenters personally for the seminar. One email received from a delegate since the event included the following, “I’m so pleased to be at the university and thank you for the help you have given me.”

Since the event, applications for support from RefuAid have been prepared by some delegates with the help of Action for Refugees group members. Referrals have also been made to other organisations with a view to providing expert support for individuals to gain employment. Plans for future working between RefuAid and the University are being put in place. Action for Refugees is keen that the knowledge exchanged at this event will provide a basis for a fruitful partnership with RefuAid that will reflects principles of inclusivity, equity, and social justice.

Left to right: Naima and Anna (RefuAid), Malik (Syrian Cultural Centre), Kate (RefuAid), Mike (EHU)

 

Migrants and Refugees in Education: A toolkit for teachers

Learn how to teach and support young people across the globe affected by violence, conflict or displacement.
This free, online course developed by the British Council is designed to help teachers support students who are dealing with trauma.
Experienced teachers talk about the challenges, what they have learnt and the strategies they have used when teaching migrant and refugee learners both in countries affected by conflict and in host countries. All teachers and volunteers working with refugees and migrant learners can find ideas and strategies that can be used to better understand learners. The course helps to build inclusive classrooms and develop learners’ confidence, taking into account the languages they know and their cultures.
Click here to find out more.

Update from Calais January 2019

By Mike Stoddart

This post is a follow-up from my visit to northern France in January 18.

Mike Stoddart and Jo Watt of Action for Refugees, Edge Hill University

I was able to return to Calais at the turn of the year to deliver much-needed donations from people concerned regarding the desperate situation there. My vehicle was packed with donations of warm clothes, food and toiletries in response to Care4Calais’ (C4C) #Coats4Calais appeal. My trip was kindly supported by the Global Unity Society of Edge Hill University students union.

I travelled overnight after finishing work on the Friday then caught a ferry from Dover to Calais. On arrival in Calais I drove to an industrial estate not far from the port where many of the refugees try to survive as best they can amid the industrial units and wasteland.

All afternoon volunteers from Care4Calais were busy providing valuable services to the refugees.

Verrotieres, sometimes known as the new Jungle. Image from Google maps.

Most importantly, they were distributing footwear for the refugees. These are classed by the charity as high value items because of their importance in cold, wet weather and the need to avoid medical problems that arise from having constantly cold, wet feet. It is a constant struggle to keep warm and dry as being wet and cold quickly takes its toll on the body and spirit. The volunteers were also providing hot drinks and just as importantly, taking care to engage in conversation with as many people as they could. Continue reading

#COATS4CALAIS

Can you donate a coat to keep a refugee warm this winter?

Over 3,000 refugees are currently sleeping rough in Northern France, and temperatures are rapidly dropping. Some as young as 13, with no access to clean clothes, water or shelter. So this holiday season our goal is to provide each and every one of these refugees with a warm winter coat. To do this we URGENTLY need your help.

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