£5,800 was awarded to The Leicester City of Sanctuary from our recent grants panel. Pam Inder and Bessie Hayes, Chair and Vice Chair respectively, explain why the money is important to Leicester’s asylum-seekers.
The Thursday afternoon drop-in centre at Leicester’s City of Sanctuary is, as usual, a buzzing hive of activity. There are people cooking dinner, working on computers and even sewing. Many are playing with children – not always their own: this is a family atmosphere in which all adults care for the kids. It is a very supportive environment for very vulnerable people, whom in this country are often given an unreasonably bad press.
Pam Inder has met a great many asylum-seekers from all over the world, and understands their plight all too well; ‘Most people are on Section 4 support and close to destitution’ she says. ‘This means they receive a supermarket card which entitles them to buy £35.68’s worth of food each week, but they have no cash. If they live three miles away from the supermarket then they have to walk there, because they have no money for the bus.’ A critical expense of the City of Sanctuary therefore is to provide the bus fares for people who attend the drop-in on Thursday afternoons, and it often amounts to in excess of £100 a week.
The drop-in is really vital for the well-being of so many of Leicester’s asylum-seekers. People from 44 different countries visit the drop-in. Nas, an asylum-seeker who was once a colonel in the Afghani army, has been coming to Leicester’s City of Sanctuary drop-in for two years. He had to leave his wife and children behind in Afghanistan. He now lives in a house-share with strangers from the four corners of the world with whom he only shares his learner English as a common language. Typically, he has nothing to do and no money. Bessie Hayes says; ‘So many people come to us and say, if it wasn’t for you I would be sitting staring at four walls’.
As well as providing hearty meals for everyone who attends the drop-in, there are music groups, bingo, craft and sewing classes. The charity also works in conjunction with the Welcome Project, which provides asylum-seekers with supermarket foods just about to reach their sell-by date. As they cannot travel as they have no money, the City of Sanctuary also arranges outings: last year they went to Skegness, Derbyshire and took parents and kids to a pantomime. The charity also arranges a ‘hosting’ programme, which is crucial for those making the transition from asylum-seeker to refugee when they lose support from NASS.
Although there are now 32 Cities of Sanctuary nationwide, there is no central funding. They have to arrange their own fundraising activities. The next one will be their May Fair, held at the Friends Meeting House in Queen’s Road Leicester, on 25th May.
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