Society Dedicates Funds to Help Refugees

September 7, 2016

The Society of the Holy Child Jesus has made the global refugee crisis a priority for its prayer and action.

The Society’s European Province is using funds from a recent sale of property in Preston, England, to fund projects that work with displaced people.

One of organizations receiving a donation is Revive, a community project that provides free practical support, services and advocacy for refugees and people seeking asylum.

Sr. Anne Stewart with students

Anne Stewart, SHCJ, has had a long relationship with Revive.

For years Sister Anne ran “schools of participation”, six-month-long training programs that gives confidence to refugees to get involved in civics and civil life as Revive works to get their situations resolved. She also created a public forum where they could have their voices heard by the statutory authorities and be represented in key public bodies.

When refugees and asylum-seekers were first dispersed to Salford, there were some anxiety and concerns about the strain on public services. “So we were anxious to build relationships between the local community and people coming from abroad,” she said. Awareness campaigns, advocacy and community social events that bring people together were some of the tools that help in changing perception and opinion on the refugee situation.

Many in the asylum community have no status, with little or no money in England, they are not allowed to work and may have had traumatic experiences in the war and violence in their home country which pushed them to flee for their lives.

Revive runs activities on integration and empowerment to support them in making lasting changes in their lives. There are also helped to learn the English language and Life in the UK, and make positive contribution to the community through volunteering activities and other programmes.

Sister Anne began her ministry in 2005, and now “the complexity of their situations is the same as ever,” she said. “People’s needs have not changed, but there are a lot more services that people can access. We now have asylum-seekers and refugees on key decision-making bodies in Salford and Manchester.”

People from countries who were targets of hate crimes now sit on advisory bodies in relation to crime, housing, health and education. And it’s not just to talk about their experiences, she said, rather to offer solutions on what would help.

Revive is “one of the most pioneering groups,” Sister Anne said.

The donation from the Society will allow for an experienced social worker to stay on the job for the next three years.

The Society also donated proceeds from its Preston property sale to Talk English, a small, parish-based project in Preston that, as its name suggests, helps people learn the English language.

The province is also making donations to the International Refugee Trust (for Syrian refugees in Jordan) and the Cardinal Hume Centre (to work with unaccompanied displaced minors).