Birch Volunteer Training – 2nd September 2017

Volunteer Training

Offering hospitality and friendship to those  seeking sanctuary

2nd September, 10-3.30pm,

Birmingham Central Baptist Church Hall, 35 Ellen St, B18 7LF

We are a volunteer led, local charity working to welcome vulnerable refugees and undocumented migrants to Birmingham. We are running training for new volunteers to join us in the following roles:

Family Befrienders

The Family Befriending Project matches vulnerable young refugees aged 16-25 who have come to the UK without their families with volunteer families. Family befrienders offer a regular (weekly or fortnightly) meal within the family home to a young refugee wanting a taste of family life. Our volunteer families come in all shapes and sizes, from single people to multi-generational families.

Contact David, 07708 339 362, david@birchnetwork.org for more information on befriending

Community Hosts

Community hosts offer to share their homes with an individual experiencing destitution, normally due to difficulties within the asylum process. Stays are usually from two weeks to a year, depending on the time set by the volunteer.

Contact Sarah, 07912 482 336 sarah@birchnetwork.org for more information on hosting

Please do get in touch if you would like to book a place on the training and/or talk further about any of the above roles. To book a space on the course email birchnetwork@gmail.com or find out more at www.birchnetwork.org.

BIRCH community Hosting at NACCOM – July 2017

We recently attended an informative and inspiring NACCOM event in Newcastle. Its aim was to support the growth and development of hosting schemes across the UK. We were a team of 2 hosts, 4 hosted people, a volunteer and support worker.

Hearing the introduction talk, presentation from Action Hosting, part of Action Foundation in Newcastle, and later speakers allowed us to learn about other projects and initiatives. This helps us to have ideas on what we can improve and develop in our region. We also had the chance to discuss issues and share our approaches.

With so many of us attending we engaged with almost all the workshops, discussing how to recruit hosts, how to have a positive placement, support hosts, how to involve guests, move-on, confidentiality and safeguarding. These points, and others will be followed up at our local quarterly scheduled host meetings.

They talked about the new toolkit, a NACCOM / Homeless Link how to guide helping members of the public provide spare rooms to migrants experiencing destitution.

Interviews were completed with a hosts and guests by Lucy at NACCOM, these give insight into what hosting is about, and how hosts and guests feel.

Why people Host:

I think hosting is part of our social responsibility to help when there is a need. And this is a time of need.

When people first move in:

“She was my first host. That was the first time, it was too difficult because I didn’t know her and she didn’t know me and I was a little bit scared.

I was feeling sad because I don’t have family here. I want to stay with people who will be like my mother and my father.

As soon as I stay with her I know she is a nice person. She showed me love every time I need help.

 When we met our first guest we knew everything would be fine. We knew Lazarus was an ordinary person waiting out the time he has to wait out while he gets his application in.

 When I first came here I didn’t know what to expect. I’ve got experience with other countries, other cultures but not with British. I was asked if I would like to stay with a British family and I thought this would be a good experience, I could learn English and that would be a good connection. If it didn’t work out I could change my mind.

When I went to the house on the first day, he came to pick me up and help me with my bag, but his wife was not well and was in hospital and so he said ‘I want to go and visit my wife- make yourself at home’. Then he went.

Immediately I think to myself, how is it possible that this person from another culture, another country, trusts me? It is difficult for me to trust my family- my close friends sometimes. Then I promise myself that because of this, because he trusts me, I will never lose their trust. They were kind to me and they give me happiness”.

Being together:

“I cook for myself and sometimes I cook food from my country and she eats it. Sometimes she cooks food for England people and then I try it. It is not what I am used to but it is nice.

 I can enjoy my stay with them, I am doing my best, now we are happy and friends. We went to football, we went on a walk, we go to church, I help them at home with some jobs.”

On the Home Office and Solicitors:

“Sometimes the Home Office say they don’t believe you. I said everything true but they didn’t believe me. I didn’t have a good solicitor or interpreter.

My solicitor said I was her son, she would do everything for me…but when I signed she would never do anything for me. She just wanted my money. I lose my time, my life, for one solicitor. That’s not fair. I didn’t have experience, I was new.

 If people need help, the government needs to help them. My life is true, I don’t have time to lie. They need to help me, if they help me then I will have what I need, I can work. But now it is too difficult. They need to show people love. We are not the same colour but we have the same blood.”

On preparing a new case:

“He has been 6 months into preparing a fresh claim and we could see some depression setting in. He wasn’t eating and was sleeping until midday. He shared a little bit and this was enough to know that he was anxious. He felt as though his life was in limbo. He wants to work – he wants to be an electrician- and move on and have a family.”

On BIRCH:

“I would say thank you to BIRCH. When I needed help they helped me. They give me a place to stay that was safe.

 BIRCH have been good, they come round regularly to meet with us. We are all able to speak freely I think. We have a bit of banter!”

On NACCOM:

“Today I have met some new people, I have learnt something new, it is a good memory for me.”

Staying in touch:

“Now I have moved to Derby. I will miss her. She was a kind person, she showed me the love that I was missing from my parents.

I am keeping in touch. She will come to visit me. She wants to know that I am good. She showed me this love and that make a difference. When I was missing my parents, she was there.

 I know that in the end his Section 4 might take him to another part of the country, but we have said to him that maybe we can be a buddy for him. He likes talking to us and values the chats we have. He is also a person of faith and he is keen to ask lots of questions and gain more insight.”

 On becoming a new host:

“I always encourage people to give hosting a try, and say it is something you can be in control of.

The agency are there to help with anything that comes up, if we needed to we could call them up and they would make other arrangements.

People feel they might be taking on too much and people don’t need to feel that.”

Destitution is used as a took by the government to force refused asylum seeking people to live in desperate and exploitative circumstances, essentially to encourage them to leave the UK voluntarily. We provide a safe, stable space for those who cannot return, helping them engage with the system to re-present their case, with the hope they can move onto a more positive life. Or helping them understand what protection is, and what avenues are available in their particular circumstances.

There are many resources on destitution, two recent ones are Refugee Action, Slipping through the cracks, and Red Cross, Can’t Stay, Can’t go.

New year, new opportunities to get involved!

This year, we at Birch celebrated five years of providing support to destitute asylum seekers. To date, we have provided in excess of 4600 nights of accommodation through our hosting programme and supported vulnerable families and young people through our other schemes. We couldn’t have done this without the support of our dedicated and passionate team of volunteers.

As we celebrate the start of 2017, we would like to let you know how you can support our work throughout the coming year. There are a range of opportunities, suitable for however much time you have and the level of commitment you feel able to give.

Continue reading New year, new opportunities to get involved!

Overwhelming response following refugee crisis

Over the last month we have experienced unprecedented attention following the media attention of the worsening refugee crisis across Europe.

Continue reading Overwhelming response following refugee crisis