Very Welcome Help to a Stranger

Issues around immigration were a big part of the national debate before the election. Whatever our own views about immigration, there is no doubt that by living in West London, those issues are right on our doorstep!

Due to the threat of persecution, some people arrive in the UK seeking asylum. Refugee Support Network (RSN) is a Christian‐ethos charity that works with young people affected by displacement and crisis. Simply, it is not always easy to know how to help, but by providing educational opportunities, RSN hopes to equip young people with transferable knowledge and skills that they can draw on through life, in this country or elsewhere.

Some of these young people are learning English at West Thames College, on the London Road. Through RSN, I have been mentoring a young man for an hour a week since January. Ali (not his real name) comes from a country in the Middle East. He faces an uncertain future as he waits for his status to be resolved by the government and he clearly misses and worries for his family. Ali loves cricket, and was delighted to recently visit the Lord’s cricket ground.

As a mentor to him, I don’t have to teach Ali. We meet at the college for a chat and I answer his questions about life in the UK and sometimes help him with his homework. I see mentoring Ali as part of showing a Christian “welcome” to a stranger in our community. Could you volunteer to mentor a young asylum seeker? It sounds daunting, but RSN provide good training and ongoing support.

Please visit www.refugeesupportnetwork.org to find out how to be involved. Even if you are not able to volunteer, you can receive updates of RSN’s work, learn more about people like Ali and the site includes a very helpful “jargon guide” which clearly describes the differences in status between immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers and so on – details our national press often get wrong.

DAVE MACLURE