Imagine what it would be like if war or persecution or natural disaster were to befall us here in the UK – and that as a result you had to leave your home and family and all that is familiar to you, and flee to another part of the world in hope of refuge, writes Heather Redington.
Such a possibility is mercifully remote for us here in the UK, but sadly more and more common in certain troubled parts of the world.
Contrary to what the media would have us believe, most refugees remain close to their land of origin, in camps or cities. Only a few reach the UK.
And of these few, some are here in Swindon, which has been designated a dispersal town, a place to which asylum seekers are despatched to await the outcome of their application for asylum.
The Harbour Project, housed in an old church hall in central Swindon, provides a Drop-in Centre for asylum seekers and refugees.
They come from many of the most troubled war torn parts of the world such as Eritrea, Sudan, Iran, Iraq, and most recently from Syria.
The Harbour provides a friendly meeting place and an important source of advice and help for its visitors, in navigating the complexities of life here, as they await the outcome of their application. Asylum seekers are not allowed to work, and instead have to survive on a tiny amount of money in very basic accommodation.
As a very small charity The Harbour relies heavily on its team of volunteers. To be a volunteer is immensely rich and rewarding. Tasks can range from making a cup of tea for a new visitor, sorting out a donation of clothes and toys or calling the Home Office on behalf of a desperate visitor whose tiny subsistence money has been cut by bureaucratic error.
I have been a volunteer for three years and have found that in spite of the suffering and losses endured by our visitors that it is a heart warming place. Where else in Wiltshire can I meet and make friends with people from all over the world?
If you feel drawn to contributing to the work of the Harbour, there are many possibilites. Donations of clothes for both adults and children, children’s toys, and household goods are always put to use; financial donations can help to fund a day trip for children in the holidays, or a duvet for someone who has just set up home.
And most rewarding and valuable is to become a volunteer yourself!
If you would like to know more about this, call Giles or Nan or Annie: 01793 611682 or 01793 490876 or email: SwindonHarbour@aol.com