He described the organisation simply as “ People from Leeds, welcoming those from other places.”
Leeds has a good set up for support for relatively few, but local people can extend a welcome in ways that can really make a difference.
They provide emergency financial and housing support
HOSTING. He told us about “Grace Hosting” where emergency accommodation is provided by 49 local people for varying lengths of time. He said that just offering a spare room for a destitute asylum seeker cannot solve everything but can make a big difference if offered for overnight or few days, or even just once a month.
ENGLISH AT HOME PROJECT helps those who cannot access classes for various reasons, and has benefits for both the person learning and the volunteer helper You can read more about it here. ESOL classes are often away from where people actually live so bus fares have to be paid. Many of those seeking asylum are skilled, gifted and educated people, some have had no education at all. Everyone has already helped people in some way, so helpers in the scheme don’t need to be ESOL teachers. Some help for only an hour a week. His emphasis was that there is something we can ALL do,
Jon told us about his latest blog, and it is here, http://www.oneworldleeds.org/the-daily-mail-our-new-best-friend/ challenging us to think about who we get the message out to, with real stories about asylum seekers and refugees. We can better get messages out to people about who asylum seekers and refugees actually are in creating a culture of welcome and a friendship
“We have more power and ability than you think you have.”
Questions from the audience.
How do we teach, if we don’t know, say, Arabic? He told us that we can use children in a family; we can play games like Guess Who, or Boggle, any silly games really. It must be enjoyable, and remember that our presence is invaluable
Asked about mistakes to avoid, he told us that we should not assume goodwill is enough, we must always remember that we are working with people who have no choice. Never fall into the trap of working with a journalists who is looking for a story, nothing matters more than preserving the dignity and safety of the asylum seeker. Voluntary organisations need to cooperate – after all we do better when we share. Councils that will not work with the voluntary sector are a big problem.
Other questions were around the need for support for volunteers, and issues connected with people of different religion.
Lord Roger Roberts told us that Wakefield City of Sanctuary have just produced an excellent booklet to help new people shopping and cooking with pics fruit and veg. Also about the “Citizens of the world choir”, http://lordrogerroberts.uk/citizens-of-the-world-choir/