Welcome to the Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants Spring newsletter!
We’re delighted to be able to share our first newsletter of 2018 with you – as ever, we have a lot of news to share, as well as some of the beautiful art created by our clients.
In this newsletter, we want to focus on opportunity. Our clients, when they arrive at the Centre, are often isolated, vulnerable, and destitute, with no access to any income, and precarious living situations. This year, 95% of our asylum seeking clients are destitute. They face a long wait before they are able to resolve their complex practical problems – and the emotional distress they experience can take even longer to heal. We continue to be amazed both by our clients’ resilience, dignity, and determination to build a new life in the UK against all odds. So many of our clients have experienced traumatic events in their countries of origin, as well as poverty and isolation in the UK; the support offered by our community is crucial to enabling them to fully rebuild their lives.
We view our work as providing clients with opportunities: opportunities to live more independently through improved English language skills; opportunities to make friends through our social activities and a safe, welcoming space; opportunities to follow their interests, to develop new ones, to learn new skills and to really feel at home in their new city. We do this in tandem with resolving clients’ immediate needs – through ensuring access to accommodation, income, physical and psychological health support, and other crucial needs; without this, our clients would not be able to fully take part in the opportunities we offer.
It is due to your support that the Islington Centre is able to offer so many opportunities to our clients. Our successful arts engagement work continues, with several clients preparing to join the Wallace Collection as volunteers. Clients are accessing a beautiful space for learning at St Paul’s Cathedral. We are working to secure funding to support clients to develop their ICT skills. And in this newsletter, we will share the stories of some of the opportunities that our clients have seized over the past few months.
As we strive to support more, and more vulnerable clients, the generosity of our community becomes ever more important; please do consider supporting us in any way you can.
As ever, if you want any information about any area of our work, please do not hesitate to get in touch. There are going to be changes to the way that we contact you, so please do read through the newsletter to discover what these changes might mean for you.
1. Islington Centre Ambassadors
2. Recipes and gardening tips from our clients
3. Keeping in touch
4. Haberdashers’ Aske’s School for Girls – a growing relationship
5. New art from our clients
6. A big thank you to our supporters!
Islington Centre Ambassadors
Despite the complex and serious issues faced by our clients, every year we are proud to see some of our clients move forward into living fuller lives at the heart of our community.
Through our support, these clients have been able to resolve their immigration status, develop their English language skills, and begin to access further education and training. Some of these clients are pursuing training in the arts, others are looking at career-based training.
We believe that these clients have a key role in working in the community to help us to understand the reality of life seeking sanctuary in the UK, and are developing an exciting programme to enable them to act as ambassadors for the Centre. The first step will be training in public speaking, in April, followed by work with them to develop the presentations that they would like to give, focussing on what they want to communicate about their experiences as asylum seekers and refugees. Our hope is that our ambassadors will then be able to reach out to schools, churches, and community groups to help the community as a whole understand their experiences and struggles, and to build solidarity between the refugee and general community.
Recipes and gardening tips from our clients
Our clients had the opportunity, through a six week residency at the Skip Garden funded by the Near Neighbours Fund, to garden, cook, and eat together – and to learn English – in a project developed by our partner organisation Speak Street. Together, they developed a delightful book of recipes from around the world, from which the recipe above is taken. There are also some very useful gardening tips! The recipe book is a very special creation, reflecting the diversity and knowledge of the refugees in our community. The full collection of recipes and tips can be found here – please do download and share it. In the meantime, perhaps you might want to enjoy the following recipe.
Sweet Aloo Saag
1 kg chopped spinach 3-4 Sweet potatoes, cubed
2 medium onions
Whole red chillies… if you like it hot!
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 heaped tbsp garlic
1 heaped tbsp ginger
Chaat masala (to balance the sweetness)
Salt, to taste
Fry the onions until they are brown and add chillies, cumin seeds, salt, and turmeric – leave aside. Separately, add oil to a pan to make your bhoono; this means you’ll crackle the spices to allow moisture to almost evaporate then add water and allow it to reduce again and then repeat until you have reduced the spice mixture at least 8 times. Make sure you stir the whole time to avoid the spices from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add chopped tomatoes to the bhoono. Add the sweet potatoes now and allow them to soften. Finally, throw in the spinach and sautéed onions, so the sauce melts in with spices for a while and the leaves take flavour well.
Keeping in touch: important!
Due to changes to the way that charities are able to keep data about supporters, we need to ask people who are interested in our work if they would still like to be kept up to date. We are so grateful to everyone in our community who has helped us to ensure that asylum seekers, refugees, and migrants are supported to rebuild their lives, and meaningfully integrate into our community.
We would love to keep you updated about our work, our clients’ progress, their stories, and the art that they create through our occasional newsletter, which sometimes has information about our fundraising efforts. If you would like to continue to receive updates from us, please click here, or visit our website to confirm this. We will not contact you again if you do not sign up – and you can unsubscribe easily at any time.
Haberdashers’ Aske’s School for Girls – a growing relationship
While the Centre offers a crucial space to enable isolated asylum seekers and refugees to make lasting, important friendships, very often our clients are unable to spend time with friends in ways that we take for granted; for example, doing sports together or taking space from the city to visit the countryside. Sometimes, due to a lack of money and confidence, the weekend can stretch ahead, with no company. Haberdashers’ Aske’s School has kindly supported the Centre by offering our clients a Big Day Out, where they are able to travel with friends to a day filled with activities, good food, and good company.
Haberdashers’ Aske’s School for Girls has been supporting Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants for the past three years. Their first involvement came through Sita Brahmachari, our Writer in Residence. Having found out about her work at the Centre, the school decided to donate their huge harvest collection to the Centre. They have now done this three times and their students have been very proactive in organising harvest collections and raising awareness of the work of the Centre among their communities. The harvest collections mean that destitute clients have access to food parcels that enable them to eat well for several weeks.
Last year, the school hosted a ‘Big Day Out’ for the Centre – a whole day of activities which constituted a welcome break for clients who, due to their extremely limited income and isolating circumstances, are unable to enjoy simple holidays from everyday life. Fifty-five clients from the Centre were picked up by coach and taken to the school. Here they were treated to a lovely afternoon of social activities which included swimming, football, tennis, table tennis, a great brunch and an amazing barbecue. There were music and art activities and the chance to have a very relaxing and different day in the country, away from their usual urban neighbourhoods. The school’s staff and students had a great time and were pleased to receive messages of thanks and appreciation from clients, written with help from the teachers in the following week’s English classes. The school will be hosting their second Fun Day this year; last year’s was so popular that it looks like two coaches will need to be hired!
The relationship works two ways: Habs Girls have volunteered at events hosted by the centre and the school is looking at setting up a programme whereby girls can attend the centre and volunteer on a more regular basis. This enables girls from the school to develop their understanding of the lives of asylum seekers and refugees, and to communicate this understanding within their own communities. It has also supported students to understand the value of altruism, as well as learning life skills along the way.
New art from Islington Centre clients
We are delighted to share some new art created by our clients. Our Art and Writing Group have recently been focussing on the 5 senses, exploring one each week. The images above, by members of the group, are from the session on ‘Scent’, where members worked with Neal’s Yard. The poem below was created communally in the class, and looks at how scent can transport people who are far from home and family back to more familiar places, even when it is snowing outside.
Here is first snow in this country
White, cold, soft
I place my shoe in
It holds my step and yours
In our snow prints we are the same
Only different sizes, different underside of shoes
It is slow and long to reach the warm of our community
On the table there are blue bottles
In this near room I know this smell from far
I close my eyes and search in me for what this essence oil brings close
Woody heat of cardamom tree by my river
How does snow smell for you?
It brings Cardamom in me
A big thank you to our supporters!
We want to take this opportunity to thank those who have supported us in 2018 so far. Long-term supporters, such as St Paul’s Cathedral, Highgate has Heart, Westminster Abbey, Songworks Choir, St Mary Islington, St Augustine’s, and Church on the Corner have continued to provide invaluable support to our clients. New partners, such as Bloody Good Period, who provide sanitary products to clients, Gail’s Bakery, Neal’s Yard, the Islington Cycling Club, and others are crucial in supporting us to offer new, and better opportunities to our clients. Finally, a huge thank you to our individual supporters, who provide crucial donations in kind, financial support, and so generously give their time to help our clients.
As ever, many thanks from all of us here at the Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants. If you would like to find out more about how to support our work, please click here.