The team at Action Foundation have been working incredibly hard over the last three months of lockdown supporting refugees, asylum seekers and other migrants.
Isolated and vulnerable people around Tyne & Wear are being swiftly connected with the help they need – whether that be referrals to food banks, phone credit so learners can access Action Language classes on Zoom, games to keep people’s children occupied, or the supply of essential toiletries and cleaning products.
Just to put this into perspective, at the start of lockdown on 20th March, Universal Credit was increased by £20 per week to deal with the crisis, however Asylum Seekers continued to live on £5.39 per day, which was only increased by 26p per day 12 weeks later.
So with your support, donations and volunteering time, so far* we’ve been able to help 197 people from 141 households by providing:
- 86 food parcels
- 24 cleaning packs
- 24 toiletry packs
- 8 clothing bundles
- 51 mobile SIM top-ups
- 13 items of technology given to 10 people
- 44 people helped with their casework
- 317 welfare calls made to 248 people
*Figures from the start of lockdown to the end of May.
And we have continued to be extremely busy throughout June.
‘Kindness and Love’
The feedback from our beneficiaries has been amazing. Here’s a little snapshot from members of the Covid-19 Crisis Support Team…
“Just dropped off a laptop to a family, kids asked if it was just to borrow and when I told them it was a gift they had such big smiles and couldn’t believe it!”
“A client in a hostel is very happy to have a laptop for studying and contact with his solicitor – ‘Thank you from the bottom of my heart,’”
And from one of our Action Language learners who we supported with food and phone credit:
“Thank you very much for all your attention and love in these very difficult days. My wife and I are far from all our attachments and our families, and we have taken refuge in your country, and only thanks to your kindness and love, dear ones, everything has become more pleasant for us. In the end, I would like to thank you very much for hoping that one day, as an independent citizen, I will be able to make up for some of your kindness.”
Back to virtual class
In June we were also able to re-start language learning, albeit in a very different way to our usual busy classrooms in Newcastle and Sunderland!
Project Manager for Action Language Nicola Brooks told us: “As we spoke to learners on welfare calls and they got in touch for Covid support, we were also able to start assessing who wanted to get back to learning, what technology they were able to use, and form some groups at different language levels.“
“Our volunteer teachers stepped up to the challenge of teaching their classes via Zoom, and volunteers assistants have been quickly adapting to virtual ‘breakout rooms’ instead of the small groups around a real-life table they’re used to.”
“In our first week we had around 20 learners across 4 sessions, but this week saw 25 keen students on Tuesday alone! By next week we will be up to 12 sessions per week, and hope to see over 50 different learners in them, with lower level learners now able to join classes twice per week. Our online school will continue to grow through the summer.”
“However, that’s still only a fraction of the learners who were coming into the schools each week pre-lockdown. Part of reason is that many of our learners have limited or no access to technology or internet. While we are working to help learners by providing phone credit so they have enough data for the calls, or passing on donations of laptops, tablets or smartphones, we know there are learners who the live sessions won’t reach. We are therefore also working with our volunteers to create a very simple website where learners can find self-study resources for their level, and for those who find that impossible too, we will start sending out paper resources and supporting with phone calls. This too will continue through the summer, and until we are able to welcome everyone back to classrooms safely. “
There are also plans to get our InterAction drop-in back up and running. We were immensely sad to put this project on hold as it’s such a vital lifeline for the asylum seeker and refugee community here in Newcastle. Not only for people to socialise together, but also to connect them to essential local services.
Stay tuned for further details as we work out the safest way to approach this, but there will be a mixture of socially distanced indoor and outdoor venues involved.
Thanks for all of your support, donations and volunteer time throughout this challenging time, it really is appreciated.