This week, ROOTED spoke to Cicely Fraser, Leeds student and member of UK Refugee Support Network. Dynamized by grassroot collectivism, the initiative is mobilising refugees and asylum seekers beyond the boundaries of the UK border.
UK Refugee Support Network.
UKRSN uses their Facebook group as a platform to supply a network of support, from car lifts and coffees to smart phones, school uniforms and book donations. The project is driven by goodwill and unity, and the extent and reach of the network is both fortifying and inspiring.
Humanising Refugees: Social capital often trumps detached and distanced financial donations here. Cicely explains that the network “actively encourages our members to deliver donations they have collected themselves. We think it’s super important to not just drop off essential items but to maybe take one of our friends out for a coffee or lunch or something you know. A friendly welcoming face can make the world of difference to someone whose lonely and recently arrived in a new country”
Social Support: Cicely remarked that “Going forward we are really pushing to pursue a buddy system. We want to get as many people involved as possible in the various tasks we carry out! We think it’s so important to physically meet the people we’re helping and stay in regular contact. We think it’s vital to really humanise their struggles. Epistemic distance between us and Refugees is something that sadly a lot of right-wing news outlets try to propagate”. Whether legal aid or support with a job or college application, it is the time and the energy that members of UKRSN are giving to refugees, which are empowering otherwise disenabled refugees to pursue a life here in the UK.
Language Exchange: Cicely reminds us of the opportunity for a language and culture exchange on both parts: “We’d meet up and do some English conversation, all the people I have met are so eager to learn English and integrate into our society, among learning other trades like engineering. As a bit of an exchange our friends have been teaching us little bits of Arabic which has been so much fun!”
Bridging the Epistemic Distance: UKRSN emphasises the importance of sharing educational information about the refugee situation in the UK; “understanding the truth about refugees is at the core of productively moving forward and dispelling inaccurate negative portrayals of refugees”. We hope that ROOTED has helped with some of this.
What can YOU do?
It’s been just over a month since the network begun and it already has 957 members. “We are always looking for new proactive members. Please ask to join our Facebook group UK Refugee Support Community if you want to get involved. We have a virtual pub quiz planned as a fundraiser which will be really informative too, so double win! Stay tuned on our fb page for the deets!”
All illustrations: Amambel Barlow – find her on Instagram @amabelbarlow_illustrator