Restore’s Annual Celebration was a great opportunity to bring together the ‘Restore family’ of refugees, asylum seekers, volunteers and supporters for the first event of its kind in 3 years. It was great to be joined by over 90 people. As an organisation focused on welcome and building relationships it was fantastic to meet old friends and find new ones. The Celebration was generously hosted by St Martin in the Bullring church.
It was an opportunity to showcase how Restore is working towards our vision of a society into which all refugees and asylum seekers are welcomed, valued and integrated.
To build relationships and equip for integration, we run our one-to-one befriending scheme and a range of group social activities. Catherine Bridgwood, Befriending Co-ordinator, gave an overview of Restore’s befriending scheme which seeks to reduce loneliness and social isolation, build relationships, provide opportunities for people to practice conversational English as well as to grow in understanding of the new community they find themselves in. There are great mutual benefits too and our befrienders share endlessly of how much they learn from their experiences of befriending. We currently have 117 ongoing befriending matches.
A huge highlight was input from those involved in 2 befriending relationships sharing what they had done together and how it had impacted them. One was a video and was like being a fly on the wall at one of their meetings as they chatted together. The befriendee from Iran ended with, “In my country and in other countries, I didn’t have a good friend like this. They really help me for my mind and for my life.” The other input was a conversation in person. That befriending match had started during lockdown. They had been introduced via a video call and were both rather apprehensive. But what a difference a year makes. They now regularly meet for coffee, go for walks and visit places together, have built a mutually enriching relationship and the befriendee has blossomed as her confidence has grown.
We are eager for more volunteer befrienders to join our team. Our next 3-session training course will be in October. For more information or to sign up please contact Catherine on firstname.lastname@example.org
Nicole Gilmore, Befriending Women’s Worker, described how group social activities for men, women and children are now all functioning in the community, attendance is rising as they provide a valuable opportunity to meet others, learn about Birmingham and have fun. Andy Ferrari, Befriending Men’s Worker, shared about the intentional English element, where group activities provide informal opportunities to increase vocabulary and develop English, skills often through a multiple choice quiz. Another video included clips of recent men’s and women’s activities with several contributors commenting about how group activities had helped them to meet more people.
Jeremy Thompson, Restore Manager, highlighted the Motivating for Action and Working for Change elements of Restore’s work which includes a range of speaking engagements and in the past year a lot of campaigning for changes to what has become the Nationality and Borders Act. The Act is an outworking of the ongoing hostile environment towards refugees and migrants and there will be further campaigning against what are deemed to be Anti Refugee Laws.
It is within that hostile environment that Restore seeks to make a difference and we reflected on a quote from Martin Luther King Jr, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
Mauricio Silva, Chair of Restore’s Management Committee, spoke of the role of Restore in bringing transformation to refugees, volunteers and society and his message included: “By offering a service anchored in building relationships, we are transforming an uncaring system from within, reversing streams of social and economic hostility towards refugees and countering narratives of fear and separation which have damaged society. The service offered by Restore to the city is also helping the host community. It is a work of reconciliation and healing. A work sealed by compassion which brings together two communities (refugees and hosts) equally affected (even wounded) for the viruses of fear, separation, isolation and suspicion of each other. As a Christian, I believe in the goodwill of all people and in the transformative power of our big and small actions: a better world built on those actions.”
It wasn’t all listening – there was plenty of informal interaction and we also made a paperchain of hope containing lots of messages of welcome which included:
All refugees and asylum seekers are welcome here in Birmingham. We are all part of one global family
Friendship brings hope and peace, thank you Restore
Everyone is welcome. Everyone is loved. Let us build a community, a nation and world without hostility and hatred. We welcome one another.
Love all, no limits
The Celebration was also an opportunity to thank all those involved with Restore: refugees and asylum seekers, volunteer befrienders, Restore Management Committee and other agencies we partner with.
We rounded off with prayer:
Almighty and merciful God, whose Son became a refugee and had no place to call his own;
look with mercy on those who today are fleeing from danger and seeking sanctuary;
bless those who work to bring them relief.
We give thanks for the work of Restore over the past 23 years.
Please continue to inspire generosity and compassion in all our hearts to offer welcome and support to refugees and those seeking sanctuary in our city;
and guide the nations of the world towards that day when all will rejoice in your Kingdom of justice and peace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
A series of three sessions on Wednesdays 7, 14 and 21 June 2023 from 7.15 pm at The Rep.More
Find out about our new online referral form.More
Got any old, empty ink cartridges lying around from your printer? Find out how they could raise money for Restore…More
Hear from our wonderful volunteers and amazing refugee friends.More