Continuing on from the last post, I seriously hope the Refugee Council doesn’t fold as a whole. Feeling that the organisation has had a big impact on my life as well as many others, as a launching pad and a saviour, you hope it can keep going. However, it seems that Refugee Council West Midlands will not.
Refugee Council has brought many success stories. I cannot forget one of my friends, who while I was working was a section 4 client. I remember swapping his supermarket vouchers for money (one of UKBA’s cruel policies to make the lives of asylum-seekers intolerable). He probably won’t want me to use his name, but many people reading this will know who I mean when I say that he is from Uganda. After years of living as a section 4 client, he was finally granted asylum in 2011 while I was in Honduras volunteering with Casa Alianza. I can’t remember which month it was, but I knew that a couple of old friends celebrated with him, and I daresay the Ugandan drank them all under the table, like he does to me every time I see him.
I remember him telling me his story, of being tortured, of being saved by a friend, being shipped off in a plane, while realising he would probably never see his wife or kids, or mum and dad, face to face, again.
I trained him up on the computers and how to answer the telephone. I remember him answering, “Thank you please” a lot and telling me that I should follow Jesus more than I should. When I saw him, the day before I flew back to Honduras, he told him that his mother had died a couple of months before, so he was feeling quite sad about that. However, his career had picked up in a big way. He had been working in Marks and Spencers over the last Christmas, and was unlucky to lose out on a permanent job to two more experienced staff. But he had since worked with people with autism in various homes, being a carer and doing all the essentials, working horrendous hours from 7 in the morning to 7 at night (the job was in Redditch, he lives in Moseley, Birmingham and doesn’t have a car. People joke about Honduran transport, but you try and get to Redditch at that hour in the morning!), meaning he was getting up 4ish in the morning and getting him 10ish at night. He had also been volunteering helping people who, I can only imagine, lived in some sort of half-way house. He was telling me the day he saw me of a teenager verbally abusing him and threatening to beat him up, while my friend stood back and looked at him, telling him to calm down. The boy after a while walked away. I can’t imagine of anyone who would want to beat up my friend. He is the most harmless guy I know, and has a squeaky little laugh to prove it.
The day I saw him, he had been accepted to start a new job working with people with autism, and he seemed quite excited about this new challenge. It’s a nice slice of luck for the man, having lost his mother. He also said thank you. Thank you training him, for showing him how to have patience and react more sensitively to people who are suffering. I didn’t believe I was anything like that, but I obviously felt very touched.
He was also training to run the Birmingham marathon to raise money for a charity, unfortunately I can’t remember which. But this is the type of man he is. Good-natured and polite, with a wonderful soul. I wish him all the best.
This is the frustrating part of the term asylum-seeker or immigrant or refugee. Tell me, who would you prefer prowling Britain’s streets; my friend or EDL thugs? If you said the latter, you’re a prat. If you have any negative views of asylum-seekers and refugees, I suggest you look at this link, “The Truth About Asylum” – http://www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/policy_research/the_truth_about_asylum, then think twice before you buy the Daily Mail or Telegraph.
Talking of another former colleague, my friend Emma Birks is currently traveling around South East Asia with her boyfriend, Trent, and they are doing a blog together, which you might be interested to take a gander. http://trentnemma.wordpress.com/.
I am going to finish with a chill out tune I listened to a lot while I was working at the Refugee Council, for some reason. It’s just a nice relaxing song! It’s by A Man Called Adam, and the song is Estelle. Enjoy.