On Saturday I went to a meeting of local people in Bakewell to talk about practical ways of helping refugees and asylum seekers (though we have none in Bakewell.) It was heartening to be with other people I didn't know who care as much about refugees as I do.
This is a smattering of what I learned that might be useful to you:
- It's easy to volunteer on Lesbos, even if you only have a couple of weeks to give. There's a Facebook page with full details about how to go about it. Check it out if you're on Facebook. I'm not.
- Asylum seekers in this country are supported by the Home Office while their claims are dealt with. If their claim fails they have to move out of their accommodation, and they stop receiving their £5 a day subsistence, but they are not allowed to work. This means that while they are gathering more evidence to renew their claim, or to appeal, they are destitute. They need hospitality from groups - such as churches - or from individuals. We're planning something in Bakewell.
- There are some charities specialising in helping asylum seekers. A speaker from one in Sheffield told us that top of the list of asked-for items is lessons in English. Next is bicycles, because bus fares are so expensive. I'm going to give them my old bike. Could you help with either of these needs, in your nearest city?
- A lot of people have donated clothes, tents and sleeping bags to charities supporting refugees. One thing that many families need when they arrive in Greece is baby carriers. I never thought about this. Now I'm going to try to find as many as I can to send to Lesbos.
The headlines this morning are all about refugees: how to turn them back. You could write to your MP (I do, but he doesn't listen) and you can try to lobby the current government. Good luck with that.
The world is a dark dark place right now and we cannot rely on politicians to do the right thing. So much is obvious. I know it's a structural problem, but nevertheless, we can all do something to help.
It is better to light one small candle than to curse the darkness.
Here is a video worth watching - it's a TED talk by Professor Alexander Betts about our response to the current crisis.