‘If the situation was reversed, what would I want somebody to do for me? That’s what gets me out of bed every morning’
Those are the heartfelt words of Vicky Ledwidge, centre leader at St, Augustine’s Centre, as it marks Refugee Week (June 20 to 26).
The aim of the week, which this year has a theme of ‘welcome’, is to provide important opportunities for asylum seekers to be seen, listened to and valued. And the team at St. Augustine’s are determined to just that, as it works tirelessly with people from 43 different countries.
“When people get here. they can be quite isolated, they have had traumatic journeys and the decision to leave their country in the first instance must be really heartbreaking,” Vicky said.
“What we do here is try to create that community. We run a cafe, which is the heart of what we do, we provide hot meals for people who wouldn’t necessarily have one.
“The main thing is that we will help anybody with whatever they need help with. Particularly with asylum seekers, that can be everything from finding people from their own country to English lessons. Asylum seekers can’t work, can’t study, can’t volunteer unless they have permission to do so and some of them are very, very intelligent people, We’re working with people who are barristers and teachers and engineers.
“They are basically waiting, they are in limbo. One thing that motivates the team here, more than anything else, is to give them some kind of quality of life while they are waiting.
“One thing we recognise here, is that everyone is their own person. We don’t pigeonhole people and say ‘because you’re from this country, this is what’s happened to you’.
“This place is a real leveller in terms of community cohesion, over lunch we could have an Iranian, an Iraqi, an Afghan, a Syrian, a Vietnamese person, all just sat together eating. It’s incredible.”
Vicky says she was “blown away” by the amount of support the centre received when the refugee crisis hit the news last year.
She said: “We know that there’s a huge amount of support for what we are doing. We’ve got 151 active volunteers - that’s somebody who is involved with helping us at least once a fortnight.
“To see people come here when they have their piece of paper that says they can stay, they are safe, you can see the difference in their faces. It’s beautiful.
“If the situation was reversed, what would I want somebody to do for me? That’s what gets me out of bed every morning. We are making a real, tangible difference and why would you not want to do that?”
If you’d like to find out more about the work of St. Augustine’s Centre, make a donation or get involved, contact Vicky Ledwidge via firstname.lastname@example.org or 01422 352492.
A fundraising quiz for the centre will be held tonight at the Hare and Hounds Burnley Road, Todmorden. Tickets cost £5 and can be bought from email@example.com.