Volunteers from churches across Knowsley are enabling local grassroots charity SHARe Knowsley to continue to provide practical, emotional and social support for asylum seekers and refugees during the COVID-19 pandemic.
SHARe Knowsley is a local ecumenical group which provides a welcome and befriending service to asylum seekers and refugees who are housed in Knowsley.
Margaret Roche, who has supported the charity since it was founded over four years ago, said: “The impact of Covid-19 has meant a significant change in operations”.
The group had to stop their weekly drop-in service at Prescot Methodist Church and face-to-face English lessons at the Old School House in Huyton. These services are now being carried out remotely through phone conversations and online.
Despite this, SHARe Knowsley has seen “more than a 300% increase in people they are now supporting” after putting out flyers to all of the Home Office properties in Knowsley and setting up a new ‘Drop-Off’ Project during the lockdown.
The Drop-Off Project is providing refugees and asylum seekers with supplies of fresh food each week, and toiletries and other essentials once a month, as well as a listening ear and an informal chat, all brought to their doorsteps by local volunteers.
Margaret explained the reasons for setting up the Drop-Off Project: “Conscious of the financial hardship and poverty experienced by asylum seekers and refugees as well as the isolation they already feel, SHARe Knowsley sought to reach out to this vulnerable and marginalised community, to continue to support them not only financially but also emotionally and in any other ways they can”
“The Drop-Off Project aims to maintain high levels of support for asylum seekers and refugees so that they don’t feel abandoned or alone on their often traumatic and lonely journey they face through the asylum process.”
David Barker, a SHARe Knowsley volunteer from St Bartholomew’s Church, Roby, said: “I had the opportunity to deliver food parcels to several locations across Kirby and the response was amazing.”
Margaret spoke about how meaningful the space to chat on the doorstep has been for refugees and asylum seekers using the service:
“A short chat on the doorstep when food is being delivered enables volunteers to check on how people are and find out if they have any particular needs.
“People feel more at ease to mention any problems they may have” and “have also become more comfortable in sending a message or phoning the service”.
With stepping up its support, there is a significant increase in their outgoings in their new way of working. SHARe Knowsley are looking for alternative means of funding and are in the process of applying for grants. They have traditionally relied heavily on the generosity of local people and regular church donations.
“Hopefully, God-willing they will receive the funding they need to carry out this essential work in reaching out to those who may otherwise be forgotten.”