Category Archives: refugees

Collection to help refugees

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ (Matthew 25:25-36)

FHR collection Oct 18It is time to sort through our wardrobes and cupboards again ready for another collection organised by Farnham Help for Refugees in UK and Overseas and taking place on October 5 from 3-7pm in St George’s Church.

The clothes, toiletries, baby items and medical and other equipment which are collected in (see above for what is needed) will then be distributed to other groups who have direct links to refugees either in this country or overseas. For instance, a car full of supplies, particularly toiletries and feminine hygiene products, always goes down to Portsmouth where the Red Cross distribute it among refugees already in the country. Other supplies are taken to groups such as High Wycombe Helping Others which sends container loads out to countries like Lebanon and Greece which are currently home to thousands of refugees, particularly from Syria.

Members of the group also take clothing and supplies overseas themselves which gives them a clear idea of what is specifically needed. One of the members of the group was on the Greek island of Lesbos last month where thousands of people continue to arrive seeking refuge from war and persecution in their home countries.

Another member is Penny Hardcastle from St George’s who will be driving to Calais with a car full of contributions in October which she will pass to the organisation Help Refugees. She will also stay to help with sorting and food and clothing distribution.

This will be Penny’s second trip to Calais – the first last December opened her eyes to the plight of desperate people there. “Calais is very depressing,” said Penny. “Most of the people there have fled from life or death situations and they way they are treated by the police is terrible. It was bitterly cold when I was there and there were people out there with no shelter. They don’t have tents because of the police brutality – they are forced to move on so don’t have time to put up tents. They sleep in the woods. It snowed when I was there and then there was torrential rain and that was even worse.

“But the people were so positive and friendly and there was a lot of camaraderie among them. Most of them were men – the families don’t tend to be there – and many had friends and family in England. I met one man who had a business in Birmingham and had been deported and just wanted to get back there. I met intelligent, skilled people who want to contribute.”

Among the items that Penny will be taking to Calais are men’s winter clothes in small-to-medium sizes and shoes in sizes seven to nine (40-43). “The men tend to be of slim build – partly how they are and also they have often walked for many months – and they don’t have the large European feet. Clothes to fit teenage boys would be good. The men want to look nice, to maintain their dignity.

“It may feel like a small thing, turning up at the collection with a pair of shoes say, but it really does help. And these are all dignified humans. If I were in that position I would like to think that there were people who would want to help me.”

To find out more or to offer help with sorting and packing, contact farnhamhelpforrefugees@gmail.com

penny in calais

Penny in Calais last year.

Refugees in Farnham & Guildford Diocese

Yesterday Rachel spoke at all our services about the Refugee crisis, and the things that she had learnt at the PEACE event at the Cathedral in October.  She mentioned a couple of ways of keeping in touch with what is happening and what help is required, and the links to those places are here:

Guildford Diocese:  http://www.cofeguildford.org.uk/resources/refugee-help especially details of the kinds of help required for those coming into the Diocese.

Farnham Help for Refugees in UK and Overseas – this is a Facebook Group and will keep you up to date with what is happening locally:  https://www.facebook.com/Farnham-Help-for-Refugees-in-UK-and-Overseas-1503359563295156/?fref=ts

PEACE: Responding to the Refugee Crisis

“Love the foreigner who lives amongst you” (Leviticus 19.34)

 PEACE: Responding to the Refugee Crisis

Guildford Cathedral

20th October 2015

My response to the refugee crisis – and maybe you’re the same – has been what Bishop Andrew calls “a mixture of compassion and confusion”. I feel called to do something, but worry that I don’t have all the facts and that what I do might be too little, or not what’s really needed.

I therefore volunteered to attend this conference on behalf of Alan and Lesley, with the brief to report back to the parish. Around 200 people from across the diocese were there to hear the latest facts, discuss options and identify the best response at a parish and individual level.

Led by Bishop Andrew, an impressive panel of speakers included the Chair of the Refugee Council, the Church of England’s Home Affairs Policy Advisor, the Director of World Church Programmes and a senior figure from Surrey County Council. Whilst they touched on the plight of refugees across the world and the situation at Calais, the primary focus was on the current crisis in Syria. Key facts about the practical challenges on the ground were brought to life by individual stories – a reminder that we are talking about real people who just want respite from a situation that is completely beyond our experience.

The messages were clear:

  • There is a fundamental difference between a refugee and an economic migrant: the vast majority of these people are fleeing war and would much prefer to be able to remain in their home country
  • 20, 000 people over 5 years is a drop in the ocean
  • We can and should do more
  • We are not going to be ‘swamped’ by the numbers being proposed and do have time to prepare for their arrival (likely to be in the New Year)
  • We don’t need to re-invent the wheel: agencies and processes exist to help
  • A lot is already happening behind the scene: in the face of government inertia, these agencies are working together to prepare a joint response
  • Coordination and the avoidance of duplication are therefore vital
  • We can all do our bit – even if it’s in a very small way!
  • This is for the long term: whatever we do, it needs to have solid foundations and be sustainable

So what can you and I do? The next few months will see a great deal of preparation on the part of agencies at a national and local level. You can stay in touch with what’s going on, share ideas and coordinate action via the following website http://www.cofeguildford.org.uk/resources/refugee-help. A useful Facebook page (Farnham Help for Refugees in UK and Overseas) has also been created to promote local activities.

In the meantime, think carefully and realistically about what you might be able to do, both now, and over the longer term. A few of us may be able to offer a spare room to a family, or be able to foster an unaccompanied child, but this won’t be for everyone. Each of us will be able to do something however – whether it’s a cake sale to raise money, donating clothes, toiletries and toys so needed by charities on the ground, or simply writing to our MP. As Maurice Wren from the Refugee Council put it: “Never underestimate the power of a clogged up inbox to get an MP moving!”

Conference attendees were reminded of what the Dalai Lama once said: “If you are feeling insignificant in this world and feel that you have no impact on those around you, you’ve clearly never been in bed with a mosquito!”

Let’s be mosquitos!

Rachel Holmes

November 2015