Liz Roberts - Jacari Trustee
Our Trustee, Liz Roberts, writes about Refugee Week which runs from 14-20 June.
Refugee Week's 2021 theme is ‘we cannot walk alone’, encouraging individuals to reach out and extend their hand to someone new. Recent experience has shown us the importance of this. Despite the challenges that we have all faced during the pandemic, communities have come together to support one another.
Since its inception, Jacari’s work has set out to do this by creating connections and fostering solidarity between different communities. Our volunteers from diverse backgrounds provide free tuition to refugee, asylum-seeking and migrant children and young people, supporting them with their English language skills, and with their confidence and academic skills. This support helps to provide the building blocks for a future in which they can realise their full potential.
Jacari volunteers and refugee children and young people come together to learn from each other. Volunteers learn about the children and young people’s background, their cultures and the issues that refugees face. This exchange of ideas helps to foster curiosity, learning and understanding, which in turn helps to build stronger and more inclusive communities.
The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic
Over the past year Jacari’s work has been more important than ever. As we know, one of the biggest challenges that has been faced globally during the pandemic has been the disruption to education. Many schools had to close and move to online learning.
This has been difficult for many children and young people, not least for those from refugee backgrounds, who are already having to deal with challenging situations. Many of them are experiencing trauma because of having to flee from conflicts across the globe, to seek sanctuary in cities like Bristol or Oxford. Once here they find themselves living in precarious housing situations, navigating challenging systems while facing the language and cultural barriers of an unfamiliar country.
As you can imagine, this can be a lonely and isolating experience. Schools usually offer a place of safety that provides routine, structure, and an opportunity to create friendships and a sense of belonging, so their closure has only served to make that isolation worse.
Jacari had to move swiftly to respond to the situation. The team worked quickly to move the tuition programme from face-to-face to online. This enabled many of our volunteers to continue offering tuition and support throughout the last year. We recognised that we also needed to be creative in our approach, to reach the many young people that didn’t have access to technology or the internet. We forged links with other organisations to address this, and it was at this time that the ideas for letter-writing and laptop donation were born.
Working together to support refugees
Although it has been a difficult year for all of us in so many ways, it has also provided us with opportunities, some of which we have grasped more readily than others. It has also taught us the importance of working together: “We cannot walk alone.”
This Refugee Week we would like to acknowledge everything that you bring, which enriches Jacari and wider communities. To those reading this blog who wish to extend their hand to others to help them through this difficult time, please consider volunteering with Jacari in the future or donating. Your gift of time or money will enable us to continue to support as many pupils as possible with their life-enhancing education.