Welcome to the Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants’ Summer newsletter!
We are currently in the run up to Refugee Week, a week-long celebration of asylum seekers and refugees. We are delighted to be celebrating some of our clients’ achievements in this newsletter, as well as inviting you to a range of events to celebrate refugees in our community. We are so privileged to be part of a community that welcomes refugees – and we have been working hard in the last few months to develop resources for our wonderful supporters to help you learn more about who visits our Centre, the problems they face, and how you can help.
In this newsletter, we will also be asking you to let us know what you want to hear about – we have so many stories to share, and we want to be sure that we are keeping you up to date on the ones that are most important to you.
Refugee Week – celebrate with us!
We are taking part in a range of celebrations over Refugee Week – we would be delighted if you could join us.
Running for Refugees!
Some of our wonderful clients will be kicking off Refugee Week by undertaking a sponsored run for the Centre on 20th June at Victoria Park! Come on down to cheer them on, or sponsor them here: https://mydonate.bt.com/events/islingtonruns/464212
Art at the library
We will be displaying some of the beautiful artwork created by clients in our Art & Writing Group at Islington South Library, just around the corner from the Centre – do pop by to see some of these wonderful creations.
Wallace Collection Tour Guides
Four of our clients are taking part in the prestigious Community Ambassador Tour Guide programme at the Wallace Collection. Since January, they have been researching objects in the Collection, and this Refugee Week they will be making their first presentations as part of the Community Ambassador Tours. Come along to find out more about the history of some very special pieces in the Collection through the eyes of refugees: https://www.wallacecollection.org/whatson/latestevents?currentdate=2018-06-17
Jonathan has been attending the Islington Centre for some years. Our work with Jonathan has supported him to develop his interests in art and architecture. We gave him a grant to purchase some materials for a project he was developing and he returned with a gift for the Centre; a model of a bigger, and better Centre. Here, he explains why he undertook this work over many months:
“This is my donation to Islington Centre to my goals for the future. Islington Centre helps everyone who is seeking for help in the past, present and I believe in the future and they deserve to have bigger space to welcome more and next refugees, so they will be happy and live a reasonable life in that building. And also…kid and adults can have a better education because in the next building, they have all they want in there, and plus, they will very welcoming. I can manage to do a lot of things because of Islington Centre but love to do more if we have this space I have created. My name is ……. Jonathan Ashandi.”
We want to hear from YOU!
One of the best things about the Islington Centre is how well supported we are by our community. We want to understand more about what you want to hear from us – we would be incredibly grateful if you could let us know a little bit more about the things you are interested in. Click here to tell us!
A volunteer’s story
Gary Watts currently volunteers with Centre. Here he shares some thoughts on his experience of working with our clients, supporting them to learn English:
Since the beginning of September, I have been working as a part-time voluntary ESOL (English as a Second Language) support assistant. There are 2 ESOL classes: one for beginners and one for more advanced students. Some students, through no fault of their own, have been denied any opportunities beyond the most basic education, while others are highly qualified in their own countries, often holding post-graduate qualifications. The students are particularly dedicated, conscientious and appreciative. Some students travel from as far as Bromley, Croydon or Greenford, sometimes undertaking a two-hour bus journey each way to attend English classes at the Centre. Whenever we run out of time in the classes, they often take the unfinished exercises home to complete them for correction.
I am something of “a Jack of All Trades” really: I help out with any tasks required to keep the Centre running: registering, diagnostic tests, taking the register, library visits, helping students with their ESOL college homework, and so on. I most of all enjoy helping to support the 2 teachers and their students in the ESOL classes. I also prepare and deliver classes to the more advanced class. This is very challenging, but rewarding.
For those of us who have secure lives with a regular job, a home, family and friends, we can often be unaware of just how difficult and insecure life can be for refugees coming to live in the UK, far away from their homes and families. The Centre provides clients with support, friendship and welcome, as well as ensuring that they are supported in their English learning. Knowledge of the English language helps refugees to feel more confident and breaks down their sense of isolation by helping them to integrate better into UK society and lead more fulfilling lives.
I really enjoy working here and feel that, even though I have retired from full-time employment, I can still try to make a valuable contribution to helping others which is immensely satisfying and gives me a personal commitment and sense of purpose. One of the most moving experiences for me was seeing the students’ choir performing carols and other songs composed by themselves to instrumental accompaniment at the end of term Christmas concert, especially as this was not sung in their own first language.
Max’s photography scholarship
We are so proud of our client, Max, who has been awarded a prestigious scholarship by Accumulate, an organisation that works with those affected by homelessness to enable them to develop skills in photography. His prize-winning photographs are on display at King’s Place until 15th June as part of the Accumulate ‘Displacement’ exhibition. If you can’t make it down to the exhibition itself, you can see art from the show, including more of Max’s work, here: https://www.instagram.com/accumulate_ldn/
Max tells us about the project, and how photography makes him feel:
“I have learnt about life. We are able to see with our own eyes, but with photography we can see things differently. We can see things with another eye. This project has taught me about photography and how it is an art. The world is beautiful, just take your camera and take some pictures and you are going to see that ugly doesn’t always make sense. You can always find some light of hope when life seems to be without it, hope can’t be completely empty.”
Max with Martha at the private view One of Max’s prize-winning photos
Our clients’ stories
We have recently been working with our clients to help them to tell their stories: how they came to the Centre, how the Centre supports them, and their dreams for the future. You can find these stories here, on our website in the ‘Our clients’ stories’ section.
We are delighted that our clients feel able to share their stories, and we will be sharing more with you in the future. We would like to thank Angela Neustatter for helping us to record these conversations.
Thanks to our supporters
As ever, the support of the community is crucial to enabling us to support the most vulnerable among us. Without the generosity and kindness of our community, we would not be able to help our clients to overcome their problems, and begin to rebuild their lives; or, indeed, to have the space to pursue creative endeavours like Jonathan and Max. We continue to be inspired by the generosity and creativity of our supporters, as well as the commitment and goodwill of volunteers and other members of our community. Here are just a few of the incredible people and groups we would like to thank for their support over the past few months:
Hanley Arts Club very generously supported us at the private view for their annual show at the PLY Gallery this spring. Members of the Club contributed paintings to a prize draw, and some artists also kindly sold their work in aid of the Centre. Founded 15 years ago by artist Helen de Sybel, Hanley Arts Club is a member’s co-operative that meets on Tuesday mornings for painting and drawing.
Since the last newsletter, Steve Hatt Fishmongers have very kindly started donating fresh fish to clients, helping them to eat more healthily.
Islington Cycling Club have approached us to offer support to our clients, and we are busy planning some exciting new activities with them.
Support from our local community means so much to us – both in terms of enabling to undertake our crucial work with vulnerable and marginalised asylum seekers, refugees, and migrants, and in helping our visitors to know that the community supports them in their journeys to rebuild their lives. The need for our work is growing – we are now supporting almost 200 asylum seekers and refugees, and almost 95% of them are destitute, with no right to access any financial support, or to support themselves. As this newsletter has shown, the work of the Islington Centre can be transformative in enabling these incredibly marginalised and vulnerable people to move forward with their lives, utilising their talents to the full. We rely on our community to support this crucial work; if you would like further information on how you can support us, please get in touch