Springtime is well and truly here. The snow has melted and the daffodils are poking their bright trumpets upwards to be refreshed by the spring rain that never ends. Things are very busy here at T4K, despite the weather. It is extremely exciting. A whole bunch of new volunteers responded to our call out last month. The team is bigger, better, bolder and many other things beginning with a B (bristling with brio?). It will be invaluable as we mature and grow.
One upside of growth is that people who need us know that we exist. There is more and more demand for housing and support. Apart from the ever present need to increase our monthly income, now over £2000/month (thank you), we need more affordable housing. I appreciate that not a lot of people have a spare house lying around, but if you do, or know someone who does, or even if you have a spare room, please do be in touch. It is so very needed.
2 of the people you have been supporting, for example, now have refugee status and need somewhere they can rent themselves at around about the housing benefit rate. A woman showed up at this Tuesday’s Jollof Cafe at the Cowley Club to see if we could help her deal with her overcrowding. She is living in a one-bedroom flat with her husband and 2 small children. They need another bedroom and they need the total price to be not much more than £860/month. It’s hard to find well-paid work in this town and it’s even harder if your 1st language is not English and you had to flee the country of your nativity. So, do please keep your eyes open for affordable accommodation.
We were involved in 2 contrasting events in February, Refugee Valentine at the Rose Hill Tavern and, along with Amnesty, the Asylum Monologues at the West Hill Hall. The former, chiefly organised by the irrepressible Luqman Onikosi, was an attempt to move Valentine’s day beyond monogamous pair bonding to embrace a love that crosses boundaries. It was a fantastic showcase of the value of diversity and, more importantly, an affirmation of the love and joy that people bring with them when they cross borders and form new communities. Around about 90 people, more than can fit in the Rose Hill, shared a vegan take on two Gambian specialities. Alaa from Best Foot Music mesmerised with his oud and his singing, before the legendary Yamäya brought the house down with their infectious afrobeat. It was truly joyous (better than the other thing that’s traditionally associated with Valentine’s Day).
The Asylum monologues were a much more sombre affair. Superbly read by a team of 5 actors, the monologues brought home the interminable Kafkaesque nightmare of the UK’s asylum system. Kafkaesque is overused as a description but there is no other word for it. Among the stories was the story of a Congolese activist, smuggled to the UK by his comrades apparently to safety, only to be disbelieved, humiliated, impoverished, detained, released and shuffled around the country at the whim of ASS (the asylum support service). The monologues conclude with his story unconcluded. It’s one we know well at T4K. There are 3 people we are supporting, who are still in the asylum system after 18 years. Despite our three years at the coalface, I remain staggered by the cruelty of the system, particularly when you put it in contrast with the warmth, joy and love that human beings bring to each other.
For me that was the take-home message of another astonishing event, Refugee Radio’s, iRefugee event. Almost every participant had been staggered by the hostility and outright cruelty of the Home Office, but overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers. It is also the take-home message of Thousand 4 1000. You, through your individual small acts of love, collectively are creating a welcoming environment for migrants that is going a small but measurable way towards changing the way our society as a whole welcomes those most in need. For that, a thousand thanks.