There has been a lot of horrific coverage of refugees crossing the channel recently. Politicians have been spreading misinformation and stirring hate. News crews have been filming sinking dinghies. Thugs have attacked people landing in Kent. One refugee tragically drowned while attempting the dangerous crossing from France.
We have spent 25 years helping refugees and people seeking asylum in across Berkshire and they have have been through hell. They’ve fled war, violence, and persecution that we cannot imagine. Some have been victims of torture. Many have been victims of human trafficking and modern slavery.
Now rising racism, unprecedented economic hardship, and COVID-19 making life harder than ever for refugees. That’s why we need to restart our Drop In Centre.
Our Drop In Centre is a safe space for refugees and asylum seekers to come together, socialise and make friends over a cup of coffee. They can learn, seek advice, be creative, or just feel safe in a place where they will be made welcome and will not be judged.
Our Caseworkers are available to give free confidential legal advice and practical support. Our team of brilliant volunteers help run English classes. We help people write a CV, find work and get their career back.
We provide computers and internet access so people can contact their loved ones, who are often still trapped in danger or living in cramped refugee camps hundreds of miles away. We run regular events and trips through the Drop In – like our trip to Bournemouth last year – and it provides a contact point for other agencies and charities, the NHS for example, to communicate with the refugee community.
Our Drop In Centre costs roughly £20,000 a year to run. That covers the venue hire, travel costs, refreshments, learning resources and some staff costs.
The travel costs are key as we refund the travel for every refugee that attends, so that being poor - and many refugees are destitute - is never a barrier to stop anyone attending.
COVID-19 has forced us to transfer all of our services, including the Drop In Centre, online, but we need to reopen the Drop In Centre and provide face-to-face support as soon as it’s safe to do so. That’s why we’re asking for your support.
The Drop In Centre has become so important to our community that we have been funding it out of our reserves.
Three people were tragically killed in Reading’s Forbury Gardens earlier this year. Sadly, the press portrayed the incident as an act of terrorism. While racism has been on the increase nationally, here in Reading our client group have been badly affected by this attack. We have had families asking us, “Is it safe to go out?”.
The need for a safe space for refugees and asylum seekers to meet has never been so important. We need your help to bring the Drop In back, so we can help the refugees in need as soon as possible.
We know it is a hard time for many people right now, so if you’re unable to donate but would like to help, please share the appeal to help us reach more people.