This post was written yesterday & appeared on some social media channels then…
It’s an interesting day today isn’t it? It all feels a bit tense and I suspect there will be a far higher turn out than we have seen in years.
And it got me thinking about the pros and cons of democracy and the very fact that we have an opportunity to be allowed to make such a monumental decision. I have worked with clients from countries as diverse as North Korea and Eritrea where elections may be held, but nothing can change, the ruling party will stay the same.
Or countries such as the DRC or Sierra Leone where there have been competing parties and the very act of campaigning has been dangerous and the outcome has led to violence on the streets.
The causes of the civil war in Syria are complex, but a lack of voice and ability to democratically change things is a significant factor.
So today, whatever we think of the referendum, whatever our concerns about the outcome, whatever we think of the different parties involved in the whole process we have been able to make our own decision, that decision will be counted and, we believe, the truth of the outcome will be told in the numbers.
I am thankful we have this freedom and I hope and pray that we will be able to accept the outcome peacefully even if we are unhappy with it.
A few more events have been drawn to our attention:
In Stroud this Saturday (25th June), there will be Arabic music playing at the Stroud sub rooms forecourt from 10am to 5pm.
On Saturday 9th July, a family fun day picnic will be held in Cheltenham at the Park Campus of the University of Gloucestershire. (Please see below.)
Please mark your diaries if these take your fancy! Thanks.
Again the day has changed any attempt at providing the history lesson I had considered. Instead I feel inspired to talk about the amazing ways people care for others; some they know; some they are yet to meet. Over the past few weeks, we have seen a number of new arrivals of young people, arriving in very hazardous ways. On each occasion, others, who have been there before, have helped in a number of ways to provide interpreting and support. (& I have learnt how to make chai!)
As we prepare for more arrivals on the Syrian project, we have been ensuring that we prepare properly for them to be welcomed and the families who are already settling have offered to provide the first meals in order to help them on that exhausting first day. Following a meeting with Foster Care, Social Workers we realised that a number of our previous clients are beginning to explore the possibility of helping in this field, wanting to give back a little of the love and care they have received.
And then there is the continuing extraordinary generosity from across Gloucestershire. Someone has just delivered a brand new vacuum cleaner, and day by day people are providing for others with such an outpouring of love that belies the nastiness of the past few months of campaigning.
So I celebrate all that is good and caring in our community and hope that tomorrow does not take us down some dark divisive path.
Please keep an eye on the GARAS website for events taking place in Refugee Week. These are being updated (please comment below or email the office if you have other events you wish to be advertised). So far, these include/ have included:
Cake Sale 20 & 21 June – Cheltenham
A cake sale will be held at at the University of Gloucestershire, Cheltenham on Monday 20th June 10:30 – 2pm at FCH Chapel and Tues 21st, 11am – 2pm at Elwes Reception, raising funds for GARAS during Refugee Week.
Vigil in Stroud
There will be a vigil for refugees at St Lawrence Church, Stroud on Monday 20th June at 7:30pm.
Art Exhibition, Stroud
An Art Exhibition is being held in Stroud Sub Rooms, all week: Monday 20th to Saturday 25th June.
Arabic Music at Sub Rooms, Stroud
There will be music on the forecourt of the Sub Rooms in Stroud from 10am to 5pm on Saturday 25th June.
Film Night 26 June 2016 – Gloucester
A documentary about the making of Queens of Syria will be shown on Sunday 26th June at 8.30 pm at the Sherborne Cinema in Gloucester. Tickets are £5 each (popcorn is £1). You can view a trailer here.
Adele Owen, our Director, will be there and give a short presentation prior to the screening. Doors open at 8pm and there will be a retiring collection for GARAS.
The live show will open at the Young Vic in London in July, and run for a week before touring the UK.
World Refugee Day
I had intended to provide a brief history to the responsibilities we have legally, never mind ethically! But I have only just got home and maybe, given today, it may be more appropriate to say a little about children, children on their own, somehow surviving against all kinds of odds. Over the years I have worked with asylum seekers and refugees, it is frequently the children who have touched me most.
What does it take a parent or a family member to come to the conclusion that sending your child on some extraordinary journey is the best for them?
What does it say about the situation that they are in that this the best option, the best future?
Scars both physical and emotional can be very visible and yet so to is the resilience, the commitment to hard work, the ready smile and the childlike trust.
We have been looking at some of the initiatives that are coming into play to support children through Resettlement, Family Reunion in Europe and the so called Lord Dubbs amendment.
Yet today has also involved discussions about the additional legal constraints that are being placed upon these youngsters, withdrawal of access to services and legal help all being implemented through the most recent Immigration Act and a build up of creating a “hostile environment “.
Happy World Refugee Day!
At some point in 1941, a small family left their home and almost everything they owned, in Java and travelled to India where the father joined the Indian Army. In time the mother, with two small girls, took the SS Stratheden to sail across the world, round the coast of Africa and finally arriving in Scotland to live out the rest of the war. In February 1942 the father was one of the many who were captured at the Fall of Singapore. Fortunately for them, at some point in the Autumn of 1945 the father finally returned and the reunion was joyful, the family was together again.
So why do I believe that it is important to allow people to move to safety? Because the older girl is my mother, her story has become our story. A story that resonates every day for me and for all who have a glimpse of the threat of war, the violence that it entails, the challenge of travel in dangerous circumstances, the pain of separation and the joy of reunion.
Let’s celebrate Refugee Week.
Please would you consider signing this petition, regarding fee increases for asylum seekers to take their cases to court? In our experience, the appeal process is crucial in terms of justice being done for asylum seekers, whose cases are often unfairly refused. A number of people are later granted Refugee status through the appeal system, which suggests that the Home Office have not made a correct initial decision. If people are priced out of it, they will be even more oppressed, left destitute and in an extremely vulnerable position. Please take a look and sign the petition. (For more info, you can read this article in the Guardian.)