Justice and Peace Refugee Project News
"A person who thinks only about building walls.... and not building bridges is not Christian."
Pope Francis, February 2016
John Dowling, Project Manager at the Hexham & Newcastle Justice and Peace Refugee Project at the Newcastle Deaf Centre in Summerhill Square, writes about the Project:
"We have now been running for close on sixteen years. From the outset our aim has been to welcome and care for people from all over the world who arrive on our doorstep seeking asylum. We have always tried to respond to the evolving needs of our clients."
Back in 2001 the project started with just one drop-in at St. Joseph’s in Benwell, opening for two hours each week. Before long this had grown to five similar drop-ins, at various venues, across the Catholic diocese of Hexham and Newcastle.
Sixteen years on, the project has changed. It is now based at the Newcastle Deaf Centre, in Summerhill Square, just off Westgate Road. It is open between 11.00am and 2.00pm every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It helps almost 400 asylum seekers by giving them a bag of essential food items every week. Clothes and shoes are also made available. Asylum seekers who have been refused leave to stay but who are going through the appeals process are also given £5 per week. This is necessary because, once leave to stay has been refused, they lose their homes and also all Government funding. They are effectively made destitute.
Demand is increasing every year. When the project began, it assisted about 100 people; that number has now almost quadrupled.
The food comes from the generosity of over 50 parishes and schools in the diocese. Money is also donated by priests, parishes, Justice & Peace groups, charities, schools and individuals and this goes into a Destitute Asylum Seekers Fund.
The project is staffed entirely by volunteers. In early 2017, there were 45 such people working with the project. In 2016, it is estimated that almost 10,000 food bags were handed out. This meant that 80,000 individual food items were packed.
Clothes are also made available to the asylum seekers. It is estimated that up to 2,000 items of clothing were made available in 2016.
In addition, we also now provide English language classes two days a week. We hope to increase this to three days a week shortly.
The Project works with City of Sanctuary, an organisation focused on improving the experience of refugees in Newcastle.
For more information, how to send in donations and details of how you can volunteer to help at the project, please tel: 07427 837813.