Christmas carols help refugees in Birmingham find their voice

Christmas carols help refugees in Birmingham find their voice

Restore, a Birmingham charity working with asylum seekers, is holding its annual Christmas carol bash on Saturday 4th December at 2pm.

The event, held at St Catherine of Siena Catholic Church, Bristol Street, is a multi-language celebration with readings in French, Swahili, Farsi and Cantonese with traditional sing-along English carols and rounded off with hot drinks and mince pies! Restore Co-ordinator Shari Brown, who is organising the event, told Charityzine that the service, “is a wonderful opportunity to bring together the Restore ‘family’ of refugees, those seeking sanctuary from persecution, volunteer befrienders and supporters. This is the second year Restore has organised the event and we trust that once again there will be both unity and diversity in our celebration together.”

Other performers will include Colombians, Natalie and Mauricio (pictured here with their children) who also performed at Restores ‘Many Voices’ fundraising gig in May this year.

The carol service is just one of the events Restore is organising to bring a fabulously festive end to the year. Its Christmas parties for asylum seeker families are enjoyed by kids of all ages and give some much needed cheer in what can otherwise be a bleak time of year. Contrary to some media reports, asylum seekers receive a minimum amount of support from the government and many don’t have enough money for warm clothes, let alone for presents. But Restore’s parties in places like Harborne and Handsworth ensure that some more children will get Christmas gifts this year, funded by public donations alone.

But Restore’s work lasts longer than the snow, and activities carry on year round. Restore works to raise awareness of the truths about refugees and asylum seekers. “There is no such thing as an illegal asylum seeker,” stresses Shari. “Claiming asylum is a legal right. If a person has been persecuted in their home country and fears that persecution would continue if they returned there, then under the UN Convention on Refugees signed by Britain in 1951, they can apply for asylum in UK.”

Restore also provides emotional support to refugee men, women and families through regular social activities and by linking up an asylum seeker with a Brummie befriender. “[Befriending] is about promoting independence, helping refugees build up their confidence” commented one befriender, just one willing volunteer who helps make refugees and asylum seekers feel more welcome despite the “confusion, loneliness and  misunderstanding” that befriender Ian says many asylum seekers feel after fleeing persecution at home.

Asylum seekers also praise the welcome that Restore in Birmingham provides:

Befrienders are excellent at providing the invisible things like just showing you around, being a friend, providing company, giving you a feeling of normal life.

Restore is just one Birmingham charity helping out asylum seekers this Christmas. Birmingham Quaker Christmas Parcels has acted as Santa to both the families of prisoners in crisis and to refugees for the last 46 years. Grocery parcels are packed every year by volunteers at Selly Oak Meeting House on Bristol Road and people are encouraged to give whatever time that they can from 6pm on Friday 10th December and from 9am on Saturday 11th December.

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