A livesimply parish group transforms lives of local refugees

St John the Baptist Cathedral Livesimply and Justice and Peace members in Norwich have filled rucksacks for asylum seekers as part of their Emergency Rucksack Project, one of their livesimply activities.

Carol Chilton, a Justice and Peace and livesimply group member from St John the Baptist  Cathedral in Norwich shares how their livesimply group made a real difference to local refugees.

It all started with a phone call

The members of the Justice and Peace and Livesimply group in St John the Baptist Cathedral in Norwich, East Anglia diocese, after receiving the 27th livesimply award. Carol, who shares her experience in this blog, is the one holding the livesimply award
The members of the Justice and Peace and Livesimply group receiving their livesimply award. Carol holds the livesimply award.

There’s a whole network of underground support for refugees and asylum seekers in Norwich. I didn’t know about any of it until I made a phone call to find out what our group could do to help.

We heard from a health visitor that families were being moved into the area, but the accommodation they were staying in was so dirty. The families had nothing to clean it with.

Discover our campaign Share the Journey to stand up for the dignity of refugees

We wanted to help so started packing cleaning products and toiletries into shoeboxes. We were later told that rucksacks would be better because they could be used afterwards. We also heard from case workers that it would be useful to include a very practical item: a plastic document wallet. We added one to each rucksack to enable families to keep important papers dry. Our project was born.

So many different groups in the parish got involved. The local school Sixth Form took it on as a project and we even got support from Mountain Warehouse for the rucksacks!

The project took on a life of its own

The project continued to grow.

We got involved with English Plus, a charity who provide language teaching. We soon realised that it was not just adults who needed support, but children and teenagers too. We decided to build children’s rucksacks which included toys. We also included ‘Welcome to Norwich’ postcards.

We held collections in church and people were very generous. We sometimes ended with lots of particular resources and nothing of others. We realised it was best to provide people with a list of what refugee families needed and to store donations until they were needed.

Health visitors would tell us when they needed something urgently. One day they told us about an Albanian family whose accommodation was very cold. I asked the ‘Knit and natter’ group in the parish for help and they were able to make three blankets for the family within a couple of days. We also re-used things that would otherwise be thrown away, for example we washed and re-hung old curtains.

We are a tiny part of a wonderful thing. We’ve been able to make amazing links in the community – we even had a reception for refugees here in the cathedral. We also have made links between the refugees and the local foodbank and SVP group.

You too can make a difference with your church

For Carol it started with a phone call to find out what she could do. Why don’t you make a start by finding out what you could do? Here are a few ideas:

1 Read about our campaign Share the Journey and discover how your parish can stand up for the rights and dignity of refugees and migrants

2. Sign our petition asking the Prime Minister to stand up for refugees

3. Become a livesimply parish  and respond to Pope Francis’ invitation in Laudato Si‘ to “work with generosity and tenderness in protecting this world which God has entrusted to us”.

Author: CAFOD

CAFOD stands for the Catholic Agency For Overseas Development. We are an international development charity and the official aid agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales. We stand beside people living in poverty – whatever their religion or culture. Through local church partners, we help people directly in their own communities, and campaign for global justice, so that everyone can reach their full potential. How to get involved with CAFOD None of our work is possible without you. Whether you donate, campaign, download prayers or volunteer we are grateful for your support.

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