Notre Dame Refugee Centre
Notre Dame Refugee Centre has been working with refugees and asylum seekers for more than 25 years, thanks to the generosity of those who share the same aims and beliefs. Originally, it was set up by Notre Dame de France in 1996, in response to changes in asylum and immigration laws that year. It was then registered as an independent charity in 2007.
As we all know, the past two years have been extremely challenging. This has been especially so for the clients, who have suffered even greater anxiety, loneliness and isolation. Their drop-in centre, which was a second home for many, had to close its doors during lockdown. However, soon after March 2020, they quickly established a telephone and online system to ensure new, and existing clients, could still receive assistance.
In response to the isolation experienced by many vulnerable clients, theyinitiated a befriending scheme where volunteer befrienders were matched with a client as a way tolisten and provide moral support. This became a lifeline for many who were placed in temporary accommodation far away and had no face-to-face contact.
“During this difficult time, we strongly relied on fundraising platforms such as Localgiving to help keep supporting our clients remotely. For instance, a donation of £20 enabled one client to have a weekly video call with a befriender during a month or attend an ESOL class every week for a month.”
Their drop-in café is now open on Mondays and Thursdays where clients, old and new, can come together to create the community space so enjoyed before the pandemic. Clients are welcome to go for general advice such as finding a place in College, translating letters they have received and don’t understand, or call their GP etc. They can also come for free toiletries and clothes. Most services such as ESOL, Art Therapy, Employment Mentoring, IT advice and counselling are all operating either online or in person. This way they can be accessible to all.
To effectively run the centre and respond to clients’ needs, Notre Dame Refugee Centre depends on the continued generosity of those who donate through platforms like Localgiving. Indeed, regular donations ensure that they can continue to run advice, café, classes and activities on a continuous basis.
“Our journey with Localgiving started in June 2021 and we have raised so far £2,676. We are really looking forward to fundraising more in the coming year!”