Getting to grips with the UK’s refugee story
These pictures are from a really brilliant day out our group had with some refugee families we look after. I honestly feel like some of it might have been a bit life-changing, both for them and for us!
Most of the people we support are in families, housed in old student accommodation or houses. Most of the kids are at local schools, and everyone seems to get along well, but the school holidays can be difficult. With no money to go out, families are stuck in their rooms, and the kids don’t have much of an outside community; some of them feel like outsiders, and feel a bit unsure about why they’re here in this new country.
It’s sad sometimes, but that’s where our trip helped.
We had decided we’d try to give the families a lift this half term, and we organised a trip to the nearby London Docklands Museum. About 10 parents and 15 children aged from 6 months to 14 came, and we set off in the morning with all the younger kids beaming from ear to ear while the older ones played it cool.
First we joined a mapping East London arts and crafts session. The kids were given big maps of east London landmarks and encouraged to add drawings of their favourite things about East London and what the area means to them. The little ones in particular loved this session, laughed a lot and got very creative!
I did worry about the older kids joining in, but once we got stuck into the African drumming workshop, they not only got banging away, but also started helping the little ones beside them keep time.
And then, with the kids all looking after each other now, came the Jewish food workshop. At the start we were shown a presentation about the generations of immigrants and refugees who have settled and helped to build east London in the last century, bringing their food and culture with them.
You could actually see their faces lighting up as they realised that far from being outsiders in an alien city, they were among millions who had come here from abroad just like them. It definitely made them feel included.
What a revelation for these kids – and for their mums and dads.
“This was such a wonderful day, for my kids but also for me”, one mother from Sudan told us. “It is so good to do something new. But what we learned… it was really special.”
At the workshop the kids got to make sukkah’s out of sweets and bread to take home to bake. By the end we were exhausted, but we had had such a marvellous time: to see the joy and laughter on so many faces was just incredible. I felt really energised by the whole experience; sometimes the volunteering can be a challenge, especially with so much hostility out there. But the museum, the message, and the response from our refugees picked us all up!
If you’d like to donate so that we can organise more days out like this, your support would be hugely appreciated: https://www.peoplesfundraising.com/fundraising/care4calais-east-london