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Wall of Fame - Refugee Week

23rd Mehefin 2020

In celebration of Refugee Week last, we're shining a spotlight on National Lottery funded projects that are helping to support refugees during Covid-19.

1. Micro Rainbow

Micro Rainbow provides a Social Inclusion programme for LGBTI asylum seekers and refugees in the UK. Every year, over 1,700 LGBTI people seek safety in the UK, following experiences of violence and hostility because of their gender identity and/or sexuality or intersex status in the countries they have left. Once here they often struggle with loneliness and isolation, due to rejection from their families and communities.

During the COVID-19 crisis, LGBTI asylum seekers and refugees are even more at risk of experiencing social isolation due to lack of social interaction in safe environments and limited access to technology. The Social Inclusion programme for LGBTI asylum seekers and refugees offers one-to-one support, online mindfulness workshops and group pastoral care and creative activities such as drawing classes, recognising that social distancing and the lockdown has exacerbated isolation within this community. Vulnerable LGBTI asylum seekers and refugees will now also be offered mobile data top-ups and WIFI to help improve access to technology, again tackling increased loneliness experienced during the coronavirus crisis.

Sebastian Rocca, Founder and CEO at Micro Rainbow, says: “LGBTI asylum seekers in the UK often face extreme isolation, violence and homelessness. During the COVID pandemic they are even more isolated as they don’t have the support of their families and ethnic communities. They also don’t have the luxury of having unlimited mobile data or WIFI to stay connected with each other, be entertained or access key services.”

2. The Bike Project

Since 2013 The Bike Project has been providing asylum seekers and refugees in London access to bicycles, cycle equipment and basic road safety lessons. The project takes second-hand bicycles, refurbishes them and donates them to people who are unable to afford public transport. In turn, they are able to access food banks, healthcare, education, employment opportunities and legal advice, therefore allowing them to integrate into the community. Thanks to National Lottery funding they have been able to move to a larger workshop, which has allowed them to increase the number of bikes it rolls out. As well as this, they have been able to introduce bike maintenance, map reading and journey planning sessions.

In light of Coronavirus, they are still working hard to get bikes to refugees & asylum seekers in order to help key workers continue getting to work. They have stopped in-person bike donations, and instead of asking refugees to risk their health travelling on public transport to their workshop, are hiring vans and taking bikes out to them. As well as this they’re offering virtual ‘Dr Bike’ sessions, which are free for NHS workers, which provides personal support and guidance through any repairs that people’s bikes may need.

Most recently, the Bike Project have a launched 'Refugee Routes- a fundraising challenge that encourages you to use pedal power to raise money for refugees. Learn more here.

Refugee Roots' Virtual Event

3. Refugee Roots

Refugee Roots recognises that being unable to speak English can be a huge barrier when going about everyday tasks. This is why they have been running a telephone befriending service, organising virtual educational activities and offering advice for asylum seekers and refugees. From 4pm each Wednesday they provide English classes for people of all abilities. Whether the individual needs to learn basic phrases to get by when shopping or attending appointments, or if they have a basic knowledge but would like to improve, everyone can benefit. Through their activities, they aim to break down that sense of isolation, making people feel welcome, happy and safe.

To celebrate Refugee Week last week, they ran a virtual event that brought people together and celebrated cultures from around the world through music, art, yoga and cooking.