The bishop with the recipients of the Lent Appeal (left to right): Anthony Thistleton-Smyth, trustee, and Geoff Lennon, treasurer, Rural Refugee Network; David Butler, volunteer, Friends Without Borders; Rosie Lennon, trustee, Rural Refugee Network; Michael Woolley, chairman, Friends Without Borders; Mike Brown, manager, the Clear Project; Bishop Christopher; Paula Falck, senior community fundraiser, and Nadia Potts, Red Cross Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Surrey; Katie Roberts, head of England south-west, and Stephen Dominy, regional co-ordinator, Christian Aid
Generous worshippers from across Portsmouth diocese have raised more than £26,000 to help vulnerable people here and across the world.
The annual Bishop’s Lent Appeal for 2018 raised money to help families and individuals displaced by violence, who end up seeking refuge in other countries. Churchgoers raised the cash by digging into their own pockets and organising fundraising events.
And representatives from five charities that work with such asylum seekers and refugees received the cheques from the Bishop of Portsmouth after an Evensong service at Portsmouth Cathedral.
Half of the £26,000 was given to the global charity Christian Aid to spend specifically on its work with those displaced by violence. For instance, in Iraq it works with a partner organisation called REACH which provides assistance for families forced from their homes by the conflict. Christian Aid also campaigns to address the causes of that violence.
The other half was shared between four local charities that help refugees and asylum seekers – the Red Cross, the Clear Project, the Rural Refugee Network, and Friends Without Borders.
The bishop, the Rt Rev Christopher Foster, said: “I’m delighted to be able to thank parishioners for their generosity in contributing to the Lent Appeal and to be able to present cheques to those who support refugees and asylum seekers.”
The Red Cross works across Hampshire, the Isle of Wight and Surrey to help refugees and asylum seekers access essential services and to adapt to life in a new country. Their volunteers also support unaccompanied young refugees, helping them to develop their language and social skills.
The Clear Project was set up in 2001 by City Life Church in Southampton in response to the government’s dispersal policy on asylum seekers and refugees. They help vulnerable people with English language and literacy skills and to integrate into society.
The Rural Refugee Network provides homes for Syrian refugees and unaccompanied children who have fled the conflict there, and helps them to settle into the UK. This involves providing housing, household items, befriending, transport, English language tuition, mentoring, advice and training.
And Friends Without Borders provides support for asylum seekers, refugees and immigrants in Portsmouth, with drop-in sessions at All Saints Church in Commercial Road. It is the only local charity offering free legal advice to those displaced from other countries.
Mike Brown, manager of the Clear Project, said: “This is a wonderful donation. It’s really overwhelming to receive this generosity from the people around Portsmouth. Asylum seekers live on 50 per cent of the poverty line – just £37 a week – and some of them are destitute because the system has failed them. We often get calls from people in Portsmouth who are in dire need.”
And Michael Woolley, chairman of Friends Without Borders, said: “This is wonderful. We have 200 clients dispersed around Portsmouth, some of whom have won appeals to remain in the country, some of whom have lost. There are 21 of them living homeless at the moment and five sleeping on the streets, so we are looking for places for them to stay. One thing we’re considering is renting holiday caravans for 2-3 months to give them accommodation during the winter and that’s something this money could be spent on.”