Written by C3 member Yvonne Jefferies
I am part of the Cathedral Community Connections Committee and lead our partnership with Ripon City of Sanctuary.
Two years before I embarked on this particular volunteering role I felt a sense of needing to ‘do’ something to support the plight of refugees, however it was as I was walking around Rydal water that Anne-Marie of our cathedral community approached me inviting me to get involved in some way – perhaps accompanying refugee families on a day out?
I realised that God was presenting me with ‘the something’ that I needed to do. Indeed this is a part of what I am now involved in – organising days out and events to enhance the life of those settling in our area and giving them opportunities to build links and friendships.
A key aspect of faith for me is the need to offer a simple welcome; a small act of kindness to the stranger in our midst to relieve suffering where we can. In seeking to help refugee families settle into the area many additional blessings have arisen, building friendships across community groups and opening up horizons of communication.
What needs doing? Initially we needed lots of items of clothing, which required sorting, washing and transporting to our distribution centres at Hull and Wakefield. Immediately around 30 members of our cathedral community offered to get involved and formed a Refugee Support Team and it is my hope that this team and its scope will expand.
Hosting visiting refugees and asylum seekers required simple acts of hospitality across our church halls, community centres and at our cathedral, drawing people together to meet our newly arrived families. Then creating opportunities to learn more about the political situation, listening and connecting with other agencies working with refugees.
Opportunities to engage in conversation on a one to one basis is something I am involved with on a weekly basis, visiting a family and helping with their English course work to enable their language skills develop.
Helping schools raise awareness of the plight of refugees and asylum seekers has become another fascinating area of development for me. Forging links with all the Ripon schools, working with an extremely pro-active Ripon City of Sanctuary Committee to offer support with workshops, assemblies, visits and events – Greystones, one of our local schools was able to share poetry they had created in a workshop at Ripon at Sanctuary in Parliament.
God sows a seed in our hearts, when we act on it a way opens up to find ways to connect with others; we may call this ‘loving our neighbour’ but however we choose to loosen the burden of suffering for others and share what we have been given – we find that despite challenges, obstacles and the enormity of the undertaking there is joy in the simplest of tasks.