How to support refugees and asylum seekers in your area

It’s a tough time to be a refugee – especially when you have no recourse to public funds, when you’re not allowed to work and when the prices of basics are soaring

Baskets of carrots, potatoes and other vegetables laid out on tables at a foodbank

For some years now we’ve been supporting a local charity called Watford and Three Rivers Refugee Partnership. A small, volunteer-run charity that’s been quietly getting on with looking after some of the most vulnerable people in our area for many years, in the teeth of the government’s hostile environment, punitive Home Office fees and a growing caseload.

The charity provides practical and emotional support, advice and befriending to refugees and asylum seekers, supporting them on their journey to a safe, secure, and settled life in the UK.

The charity has launched an appeal to raise money for essential food and household items, mostly via supermarket vouchers.

Most of the people WTRRP works with don’t have leave to remain in the country and most have no recourse to public funds (they can’t claim benefits). They’re not entitled to work and are generally living on less than £40 a week. Buying nutritious food and essential items is almost impossible. They rely on the charity’s support to make sure their families have food, personal hygiene products and basic household items.

Last year the charity switched from providing weekly food boxes to supermarket vouchers. The vouchers are a more practical way to help – they give people more choice when shopping and they can choose more fresh food. There’s also less waste.

The huge increases in the cost of food and essentials have meant that many of the charity’s clients are unable to afford enough. The charity’s befrienders report that many families are struggling to maintain even a basic diet.

The situation has got much worse as electricity and gas prices have risen

The number of families that really need vouchers has increased rapidly. WTRRP supports 131 adults and 144 children with vouchers (close to double the number three years ago). This costs about £5,000 a month.

Peter Howard, WTRRP’s Volunteer Grants Team Manager says:

Every week we see more and more people attend our drop in services who desperately need support. The food vouchers are a small way we make a difference and ensure families can get the basics. But we are small organisation run almost entirely by volunteers. So fundraising is tough – particularly at the moment. We urgently need funds to keep up with the rapidly increasing need. Without support, we simply won’t be able to continue providing these vouchers that we know people really rely on.

The charity aims to raise £1,800 and and they’re about half way there. There’s a fundraising page online now. We’d be thrilled if you’d make a donation, of any size, to help the hardest hit to get by.

“I am just a cog in the wheel of a very big machine” – Allan Beaver on the Radlett Festival

Allan Beaver

Allan Beaver, now 77, is widely acknowledged to be the moving force behind the Radlett Festival, responsible for its revival in 2004 and for much of its success – as a fun day out and as an impressive source of charitable funding for local projects – over £40,000 has been raised and dispersed to charity since 2004.

He spoke to me in the lovely ‘teen shelter’ at Phillimore Rec – part-funded by the Festival of course – on the weekend before the festival. It’s a fascinating story – a potted history of Allan’s time in Radlett with his wife Muriel, touching on his business Beaver Travel, his academic life (he’s a professor), his writing and, of course, the Festival itself.

He generously credits the rest of the enthusiastic festival team. The festival starts at noon today and, although it’s raining as I type this, I suspect it’ll be another hit.

If you can’t attend, or if you want to catch up with the excitement before you go, you can tune in two hours of live coverage from noon on our local radio station, Radio Verulam, 92.6FM, or online.

Download the MP3. More pictures of Allan on Flickr. This is an episode from the Radlett Wire podcast. Get every episode delivered to your computer for free here.

Daniel Renak from the Joely Bear Appeal at Fair Field school

Fair Field Junior School on Watford Road was buzzing today. Daniel Renak, one of the organisers of the Joely Bear Appeal‘s regular blood donor sessions, was expecting 150 people to come through the school to give blood during the session. There was a bouncy castle for donors’ children and the kitchen was turned over to catering for donors while they wait (and for the vital post-donation biscuit). I spoke to Daniel about the history of the appeal and plans for the fiftieth donor session, to be held in Borehamwood in the Summer.

The Joely Bear Appeal is on the web and on Facebook. There are more pictures from the session on Flickr.

This, by the way, is the first entry in the new Radlett Wire podcast. While we wait for the podcast to show up in the iTunes directory, you can subscribe directly using this feed or just play the audio here:

Download the MP3.