Lent 2020 challenge

Do you want to participate in an interesting Lent Challenge?

Rather than give up chocolate or alcohol or Facebook, how about this? Throughout Lent, try to live on the amount an asylum seeker lives on? This begins on Wednesday 26th February? An asylum seeker provided with asylum support only receives £37.75 per person per week to cover their food, travel, clothing, toiletries and phone top-up. (Their rent and utility costs are not included, so you can be excused that!)

If you are working then travel to and from work is excluded from this amount, as well as any employment expenses because asylum seekers do not have permission to work. It is a real challenge and experience, I can assure you.

If you are feeling generous, the money you save could then be donated to GARAS or another refugee charity.

So that’s from Ash Wednesday (26 Feb) until Holy Saturday (11 April).

If you would like to share your experience, we would love to hear from you – you may even feature on a guest blog. Good luck!

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Where there is light.

A quick check on a definition of art is that it communicates ideas, (this can be political, spiritual and philosophical); to create a sense of beauty; to explore the nature of perception; for pleasure; or to generate strong emotions.

I will be bold and say that the Installation at Gloucester Cathedral, Where There is Light, does all of these.

It is an incredibly moving and powerful work of art which I would encourage everyone to go and visit.

Dont just take my words here is a link to what thee press have said!


It will be at the Cathedral till the 23rd February, I hope it continues throughout the coming weeks, to impress and inspire all who have a chance to spend time in it.


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Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday – dont I mean Happy New Year?Why happy birthday?
If we were to sort our files by date of birth we would find that today is the day that overwhelms all other birthdays and as a method of sorting it would fail.
Why is this the case? Well surprising as it may sound to us not everyone knows their date of birth, maybe because its not important, maybe because its in a different calendar and difficult to calculate. But an official somewhere along the line wants a date to put into their forms and without any decent questioning or use of imagination, they take a guess and 1/01 it is.
This seems a perfect example of unimportant people can seem, how we fail to see the individual in front of us and where a bureaucracy over rules any desire to be compassionate.
As we step nervously into this new year and decade, concerned about how the last one turned out and how fragile so much of life seems here one suggestion as a Resolution – lets try always to take every indidvual as they are and who they are. Let us take the time to listen to each other, then maybe we will stand a chance of improving all our lives and making this year a bit better.
Happy new year and happy birthday.

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Is this for you?

Educational Mentoring Volunteer Scheme

As part of GARAS’s commitment to our young people, we have set up a volunteer educational mentoring scheme, which aims to contribute to the support and encouragement of asylum seeking young people in the Gloucester area so that their transition to and progress through the education system is enhanced.

Having a positive experience of education is an important part of a young person’s well-being. Unfortunately in recent years it has become increasingly difficult to place them quickly into appropriate education settings. Sometimes it can take many months, and even then there might be a limit to the amount and type of provision offered. GARAS plays a critical role in supporting them through this time, providing advice and free English classes.

But we want more for these young people. The volunteer educational mentoring scheme is one piece of the jigsaw. Through this scheme we match up an appropriate volunteer with a young person, and they then meet for an hour once a week to talk about their school or college work.

The scheme has now being running for a few months. Here is what one of our volunteers has to say about taking part in the scheme:

I really enjoy being an educational mentor and it is certainly one of the highlights of my week. It’s great to see the young person I work with making progress in his college work and to know that I have played a small part in that. Sometimes we talk about his English and do practice exercises from his college book. Sometimes I have printed off a BBC sport match report for his favourite football team that we read together. At the moment he is preparing for a Maths test so we are working through some practice papers he has been given.”

He has a brilliant attitude to his learning and I’m so impressed with his determination. I think he appreciates the time to talk about his work one-to-one. I guess I act as a sort of practical cheerleader, cheering him on and adding an extra layer of support.”

We are always looking for more volunteers, and we have no shortage of young people who would benefit from this kind of support. Please see the information below for how you can find out more. The scheme has been set up in collaboration with Redcliffe College and with the support of the Diocese of Gloucester LIFE development fund.

Tim Davy

PS If this is of interest to you, or you would like to know more please contact Adele Owen at info . She will be able to provide more information and if you want to explore this further, we can arrange to meet.

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39 Dead

How did you react when you heard the terrible news of those 39 people dying together in the back of a refrigerated lorry?

I can unashamedly admit to bursting into tears, the sheer horror of the situation they had faced, the abuse of human beings, the desperation that leads to such situations all come to mind. This is alongside the memory of stories I have heard from others who have made similar dangerous journeys; others who have felt the panic of the cold in a refrigerated lorry; the scars from being strapped underneath; the dark, the not knowing where you are; the lack of control, to name but a few.

It got me thinking of the misuse of human beings over time, of the slave ships of the 18th Century packing people into cargo holds with no care of deaths along the way. Have we really not moved on from then? Are we still seeing people treated as commodities? The desperate answer is yes.

We have yet to find out why this group were there, whether this was smuggling or trafficking, but whichever it is, no-one had the care to check if they were all right. No-one bothered to treat them properly, what does that say? What can we try to learn? How can we create a world where we all have a sense of responsibility to each other, whoever we are?


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The World on Our Doorstep

At the moment there is an exhibition on at St Mary de Crypt entitled the World on Our Doorstep. You can see displays telling the stories of different groups of refugees arriving in Gloucestershire over the centuries. The most recent bring it up to date and include some sound recordings of stories told by those here today. If you are able to, it is worth trying the sound pens to hear them. There is also a short video of some of the highlights from the event there on the 18th June. If you would like to watch to it all, it is here on this link:


Please also add your world wide links to the map and add comments to the books. Thank you.


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We can all help someone’s mental well being!

For refugee week I was invited to speak at the Association of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Conference where the focus was on the mental health of young refugee and asylum seekers.

I chose to speak about safety as when working as a Clinical Psychologist at GARAS with Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children, it appears that there is no meaningful difference that I can make until the young person can feel a sense of being safe in their body, within our relationship and in their environment. This can be incredibly difficult when a young person may have been in survival mode for so long and the threats to them are still very high. The children that I work with have often been very mistreated, hurt and let down by people, particularly on their journeys.

More and more I am learning to take the stance of collaboration and curiosity. Whilst respecting many of the Western Psychological ways of working that I have been taught, I am learning that this is not enough and indeed is definitely not all. This work is a daily practice of suspending what I know and really seeing, hearing and feeling the person in front of me with their own ways of coping, their strategies for survival, for healing and for resilience. Together, there may be the past to bring awareness to but only if someone is indeed ready. Often this is not the case for some time, if at all and of more urgency can be supporting young people with post migration difficulties. My supervisor alerted me to the fact that living in exile I can be very passive; waiting for asylum, waiting to hear about family, dependent on to local authority. There can be little choice and the young person may be reliant on one voice of an interpreter to be heard.

As a community at GARAS, I often notice how we all weave our work and skills together to support this feeling of safety for the young people who use our services. Young people tell me that a simple act such as a warm smile, a welcoming voice, a invitation to a community event can go a long way to making post migration a less hostile place. I observe that when working together we can additionally support young people in becoming active about their future; giving autonomy, choice and fully welcoming them with whatever they are feeling, however they are being and with whatever they are bringing. We may even enable them to feel a sense of belonging, of accepted and respected just as they are. In this, they can learn to feel safe again.


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