Latest news and updates from the Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants.
Proud To Pitch In
As part of its Proud to Pitch In initiative, we are delighted to announce that Greene King IPA has awarded the Centre a grant of £3,000.
Proud To Pitch In aims to pay grants to grassroots and community sports clubs across the United Kingdom. From the Centre’s perspective, this grant will ensure that at least 65 clients will feel physically better and empowered to overcome the issues they face through our gym, yoga, and exercise classes, as well as our sports discussion group.
Finding ways to exercise can be very difficult for asylum seekers and refugees. Some of the main barriers include a lack of English and cultural knowledge about how to get involved, a fear of feeling vulnerable in an unknown situation, and a lack of funds.
After all, asylum seekers waiting for a decision from the Home Office about whether they can remain in the UK must survive on less than £6 per day – leaving nothing for exercise classes, groups or clothes to train in.
“Opportunities to regain a sense of physical well-being are crucial for refugees and asylum seekers as they strive to create a new life here in the UK,” says Anna, our Head of Fundraising and Communications. “Thank you so much to Greene King for awarding us this grant, it is going to make a big difference to people here.”
Staff Stories (Anna)
Staff Stories is the name of our new series, where we hope to introduce members of staff in greater detail to show who – and what – makes our Centre such a success. First up, we have Anna Giokas, our Head of Fundraising and Communications.
How long have you been with the Centre?
I started in February 2020, just a few weeks before the first lockdown. Although a challenging time to get started, it was really inspiring to see how the charity reinvented itself to reach people during the pandemic.
Why did you join the Centre?
My dad came to England in 1973 to get away from the right-wing military dictatorship which ruled Greece at the time. I know how hard it can be for people in those early years of coming to England, and I wanted to help refugees and asylum seekers who, like my dad did, find themselves alone in a foreign country. When I met Andy, I saw his dedication and how much he cared, and I thought that this was a place which was genuinely making a difference.
How did you get into this sector and what is your experience?
I got into fundraising by quite a circular route. I trained as a journalist and worked as a news reporter for about five years before taking an MA in Creative Writing. When I finished, I knew that I wanted to do something worthwhile and started applying for communication jobs in small, grassroots charities. My first job was at a small charity for people with learning disabilities.
What does your role involve?
My job title is Head of Fundraising and Communications, which is as varied as it sounds. My main responsibility is to secure funds from trusts and foundations, which make up around 80% of our income. I really enjoy making applications and getting to know the different funds. I also get to work with our corporate partners and I oversee our website and social media.
What do you love most about what you do?
I love going into the Centre and meeting people – it’s such a good atmosphere. It’s impossible to describe. But what I love most is knowing that the money I bring in helps people who really need it.
Tell us something surprising about you.
I once spent two years living in a bungalow in a village called Little Snoring. It was as eventful as it sounds!
Refugee Week 2022
On Wednesday, 22nd June 2022, we are marking Refugee Week 2022 in style. Staff, volunteers, clients and some of our partners will come together for an exciting day at the Centre, hosting a series of special activities.
Among other activities and the usual camaraderie, we will be offering hot meals provided by The Food from the Heart Campaign organised by the Caring Family Foundation, a dance performance involving clients (coordinated by Protein Dance) will keep everyone on their toes, and there will also be a special make-up workshop for those interested in cosmetics.
“Refugee Week has always been an important time for our community. It helps to raise awareness about the issues our clients face and gives us all the opportunity to celebrate our diversity and shine a light on the great contribution made by refugees,” says Andy, our Chief Executive.
“This week will be our time together to have fun, share experiences through workshops like dance, choir and makeup, have lunch together, and share stories and hopes. The celebrations will be underpinned by our amazing team of staff and volunteers who will continue to support our clients this and every week.”
Joseph’s Powerful Testimony
Many clients of ours come to us to voice their appreciation for the positive impact that the Centre has had on their lives.
One such client is Joseph, who received financial assistance, education and immigration advice, and benefited from mental well-being support and other group activities.
Over on our client blog, Joseph describes how the Centre became a lifeline during difficult times. Like many of the people who come to us, Joseph had no recourse to public funds. He used the Centre as, in his words, “a coping mechanism for my mental health and wellbeing, due to the Home Office’s harsh and inhumane immigration policies”.
To read Joseph’s story, including how the Centre helped him return to education, see his blog entry: https://islingtoncentre.co.uk/2022/06/14/josephs-joy/
Plan A Consultants Donate Toiletries and Become Our Latest Partner
We would like to extend a very heartfelt thank you to everyone at Plan A Consultants – our newest partner – for their amazing support.
On June 8th, Ellie Smith and Gail Lewis gave up their lunch breaks to deliver an
array of toiletries to the Centre. Donated by staff at Plan A Consultants, they will make a substantial difference to the refugees and asylum seekers who received them.
Many people who come to us are destitute. This means that basics like toothpaste, soap and sanitary products are often too expensive, and too difficult to access.
Following on from this donation, we are delighted to say that we have recently formed a partnership with Plan A Consultants, a bespoke Design Management firm based in Clerkenwell.
We very much look forward to working with them in the future!
Macquarie Group Easter Bake Sale
A huge thank you to the Graduate Volunteer Network (GVN) at Macquarie Group for everything they are doing to support us.
In April, the team raised a fantastic £1,500 at their Easter-themed bake sale when nine GVN members volunteered throughout the day to run a stall. Cupcakes and decorative kits, among other items, attracted the attention of Macquarie staff, who raised £750on the day which Macquarie generously matched.
For a charity of our size, this makes a huge difference. This contribution is enough to provide nineteen clients facing destitution with food, digital credit, travel expenses, and essentials for a month.
Thank you Macquarie Group and the GVN!
May 18th, 2022.
Over 5,000 attendances have already been recorded by The Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants for both online and in-person sessions since the start of 2022.
Spanning English language classes, physical wellbeing events, Centre visits, and other activities, we are extremely proud to see how engagement with services continues to rise year on year.
According to Chief Executive of the Centre, Andy Ruiz Palma, the Centre’s vibrant community – which comprises people from 39 countries including, among others, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Turkey, Syria, China – has taken fantastically well to the online-physical blend of services, aided by the Centre’s ramped-up Digital Inclusion efforts.
‘Before Covid,’ said Andy, ‘we never could have imagined running an online school for our clients!’
In greater volumes than ever before, clients are bringing new issues and needs – social, medical, and linguistic – to the attention of staff and volunteers. During and even after the COVID-19 pandemic, this has meant an intensification in workload. But these challenges, he said, have been overcome creatively and positively because of the ‘resilience of the amazing staff and volunteer team’.
‘The commitment of the clients has also helped to build our community throughout this challenging period,’ he added. ‘There has been lots of learning for us all to get things moving forward so we can better support our clients online and in-person.’
What explains the consistency of the weekly attendance levels?
‘The quality of the sessions, professionalism, open-mindedness and flexibility’ of the Centre’s dedicated team of staff and volunteers, he explained, continues to ensure that ‘some of the most vulnerable people in our society’ are helped and empowered.
Sing in the Spring
‘Sing in the Spring’, held on March 25th, included a Ukrainian lullaby, sea shanties, drinking songs and some beautiful choral pieces. More than 160 tickets were sold and all proceeds raised from ticket sales and the bar in the interval will go towards the Centre.
At the Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants we work with 176 people from all over the world who have come to the UK seeking sanctuary. Of those, 78 people are experiencing destitution and we keep them from hunger by sending them support packages every fortnight. For those people, the money raised at ‘Sing in the Spring’ will literally be a lifeline.
It was a warm, uplifting evening and our heartfelt thanks go to Dom Stichbury of ‘Bellow Fellows’ and Ryan O’Riordan from ‘The Islington Community Choir’ for everything they did to make it so special!
If you belong to a group or an organisation which could raise funds for us, please get in touch. It doesn’t need to be a big event — we have a growing register and all donations are welcome.
Christmas Cards 2021
We are so proud to present this year’s Christmas Card featuring the art and poetry of Ntela. The card was designed in the Art and Writing session facilitated by Jane Ray, Sita Brahmachari and Ros Asquith.
Swallow’s Kiss and Little Amal at the Southbank Centre
Swallow’s Kiss was performed at The Southbank Centre on Saturday 23 October.
Swallow’s Kiss, by our artists in residence writer Sita Brahmachari and illustrator Jane Ray, follows the story of seven year old Blessing and her family as she discovers a bag of lost paper birds with wishes written in different languages on their wings.
The tale was inspired by the experiences of people at the Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants.
The event welcomed Little Amal to London and involved music by members of the Islington Centre Refugee choir and the Songworks choir.
Who is Little Amal?
‘Little Amal’ is not so little at 9 foot tall. She’s walking from Syria to raise awareness of the plight of refugee people. You can find out more about Little Amal and follow her journey here.
For more information, click here: https://southbankcentre.co.uk/whats-on/family-young-people/welcome-wishes?eventId=882847
A huge thank you to Macquarie Group for inviting our Chief Executive Andy Ruiz Palma to join an online event in celebration of #Refugee Week. Andy was in conversation with Anita Huynh, Senior Vice President at Macquarie Group, whose parents escaped Vietnam after the war in 1975. The conversation was led by Farzana Islam, Macquarie Group Foundation, EMEA and Harry Jobson of the Macquarie Graduate Volunteering Network, which has supported us all year with fundraising events.
The event was live streamed to Macquarie’s European offices and covered Anita’s personal experience and the issues that refugees face in the UK and wider Europe and what actions we can take to support the local communities in which we live and work. It was a great opportunity for Andy to raise awareness about what we at the Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants are doing to help people feel connected and improve their lives. Thank you Macquarie Group!
In celebration of Refugee Week we are delighted to announce the launch of Swallow’s Kiss, a beautiful children’s book inspired by the experiences of people at the Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants.
Swallow’s Kiss, by our artists in residence Sita Brahmachari and Jane Ray, follows the story of seven year old Blessing and her family as she discovers a bag of lost paper birds with wishes written in different languages on their wings.
For a sneak peak of Swallow’s Kiss please click the download button below:
You can buy your copy of Swallow’s Kiss here: https://pop-up.org.uk/shop/
Wendy Hawley’s Lockdown Journals
Wendy Hawley has supported us in our work with an art exhibition through Hanley Art Gallery in previous years and is now promoting her Lockdown Journals in support of the Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants and The Felix Project.
The Lockdown Journals are priced at £10 for one or £16 for both Journals.
Please contact Wendy directly on email@example.com for purchases and any queries.
To view samples of the lockdown journals please click the download button below:
We are currently working fully online, we continue to support our community with sessions via Zoom please click the button below to see our full timetable.
Art & Writing – Rainbow Hearth
We continue to hold our weekly Art & Writing sessions with Jane Ray and Sita Brahmachari, to view the work created at our Rainbow Hearth please click the button below.
New and upcoming sessions in our online world:
– Sports Appreciation
– Baby Group
– Reflection Session