Asylum seekers and refugees help Salvation Army respond to coronavirus food poverty

Asylum seekers and refugees are among the volunteers assisting The Salvation Army as it responds to food poverty during the coronavirus crisis.

They are part of an army of volunteers packing essential food parcels and cooking meals to make sure people in need do not go without a hot dinner.

As asylum seekers, many of the volunteers are unable to work and earn a living for themselves, but this has not stopped them from giving their time and energy to support communities. 

Major Nick Coke, Refugee Response Co-ordinator for The Salvation Army said: “Asylum seekers and refugees have lots of different skills which could benefit their new community.

“The specialist skills of doctors and nurses are very much in demand, but they are unable to practise if they are claiming asylum and often qualifications obtained by refugees in other countries aren’t automatically recognised.

“But they have not been deterred and are choosing to volunteer during the Covid-19 crisis to support those living around them.

“There is a lot to learn from people who have been through challenging times and previous experiences. With refugees and asylum seekers their experiences have given them a real level of resilience.”

Fadi and Lina, from Syria, have been living in Sutton, south west London, since April 2019, after coming to the UK with their three young sons through the community sponsorship of refugees programme.

The couple have been cooking traditional Syrian food for vulnerable neighbours throughout the pandemic. 

Supporting neighbours is something Lina had firsthand experience of in wartorn Syria.

“In Syria you know everyone in every neighbourhood, you’re united by the same enemy, all suffering the same which is what we are now seeing in the UK only in a different way,” she said. 

“People are taking a neighbourly approach and helping others and that is a way that we thought we could help in these difficult times, by leaving food on the doorsteps of the vulnerable within our neighbourhood.”

Lina and her family are not the only ones giving up their time to help communities in the UK during the pandemic. 

In Hythe, Kent, a Syrian family of five, who are sponsored by their local Salvation Army church, have been cooking a hot evening meal every day during lockdown for their next-door neighbour, a key worker. 

In Keighley, West Yorkshire, two asylum seekers from Albania have been packing emergency food parcels at their local church and community centre.

Major Coke said the level of volunteering was further evidence of how much asylum seekers have to contribute.

“The pandemic has shone further light on the injustice on asylum seekers not being able to work, particularly given that there are some who have medical training but are not allowed to contribute when it is really needed,” he said.

“The level of volunteering further shows that asylum seekers and refugees have much to offer our communities during ordinary times but they are proving it during this national crisis with their selfless support of others.”

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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