As part of Journeys Festival International Portsmouth one of our trustees and volunteers, Charles Leddy-Owen, has helped to organise a panel discussion about displacement, cultural adaptability and creativity. It may be of interest to some of FWB's supporters.
Focusing on dance, in honour of the following evening's performance of #JeSuis at the New Theatre Royal, the panel will be made up of a diverse mixture of artists and academics .
Further details and how to book your place at the seminar (for free) can be found by clicking here.
JOHN BINGHAM 1929-2017
Sadly, John died on 27th September after a short illness. He has been mentioned in this newsletter before and I recently circulated my speech at his retirement so there isn’t much more to say.
Perhaps I can leave the final words to one of our volunteers “John was such a role model for me. His clear mind, compassionate understanding of the rights and wrongs …. and all the legal procedures was an inspiration and a real help.” This very much states my own feelings – “clear mind, compassionate understanding, an inspiration and a real help”
Journeys Festival, organised by our partners Art Reach, is taking place in Portsmouth between 19th and 29th October. There’s an exciting programme of Theatre, Music and Fine Art events and discussions throughout the period and throughout the city. We would particularly draw your attention to the contribution of the Zimbabwean Majid Dhana, one of our “old boys”, who is artist in residence at Aspex Gallery PO1 3BF. There is a host of other good stuff so do look at the programme!
One World Week
By happy chance One World Week is taking place at the same time as Journeys Festival and their programme can be downloaded at http://www.campaign.exchange/campaigns/one-world-week-2017-good-neighbours/. They too have a host of good stuff, with a faith based slant and more likely to be hosted in church halls than commercial venues. But good stuff - do check out their programme as well!
STEPHEN MORGAN MP
Stephen was elected as the Labour MP for Portsmouth South in June, taking the seat from Conservative Flick Drummond and the majority from the Conservatives in Parliament.
We were delighted to welcome him to the drop-in on 28th September where he greeted a number of our clients and was photographed by many of them. Surprisingly, he came back the following Thursday to sit with a caseworker and see what sort of problems we tackle. I was not there myself but he was apparently visibly moved by what he heard. A good thing to see in an MP.
In our hunt for accommodation for failed asylum seekers “not eligible for public funds” I recently took two on a trip to Quarr Abbey on the Isle of Wight. The monks were hospitable and wanted to know how they could help. Having consulted the two asylum seekers I suggested they might host one, the other not thinking he would fit in with a monastic lifestyle. We are still waiting to see what the Abbot thinks about this, and indeed what the asylum seeker will think if the Abbot agrees to host him.
One interesting thing which has come from this is advice from our Access to Justice team about accommodating failed asylum seekers. “[They don’t] have the right to rent and it will be illegal for them or the landlord to enter into a tenancy agreement. However, free board and lodging can be offered (or paid for by a third party, such as a charity). The address must be disclosed to Home Office or both will be in breach of their temporary admission conditions”.
In other words you can legally offer accommodation to a failed asylum seeker. Experience in Chichester seems to show that this works best when time scales are limited (two months with any one host, for example).
If anyone would be interested in hosting one of our clients for two months please get in touch with me. We would be strict about the two month rule however well the two of you get on. The scheme would be administered by the charity Refugee at Home.
We’ve recently been asked about donating clothes. These days we ask people to take clothes to the Red Cross Shop in Southsea: 41a Palmerstone Road, Southsea PO5 3QQ opposite John Lewis. They are the experts and can offer a better service than we do - so we give our clients vouchers to get what they need from there.
We do keep stocks of nappies and toiletries at All Saints and these are much appreciated.
The Red Cross now has a cycle repair project and welcomes donations of cycles in whatever condition to be repaired and given to clients.
We would also welcome donations of good quality cycle locks as these are expensive items but very much needed.
Any such donations (nappies/ toiletries/ babies clothes/ cycles/ cycle locks) should ideally be delivered during drop-in times - Monday and Thursday 10:00-12:30. The drop-in is at All Saints Church PO1 4BT
We are interested in finding more volunteers and have recently modified the procedure. Please email me if you’re interested and copy to Susan Adeyemo: firstname.lastname@example.org
Very best wishes to you all,
Chairman, Friends Without Borders
This is an update on our previous post.
John Bingham, founder of Friends Without Borders, was buried at All Saints Denmead on 5th October with a full church and representatives from many of the organisations with which he'd worked.
A new phone app tdesigned to help homeless people get the help they need will be launched in Portsmouth next week.
The Street Support Network, who developed the app, say that its mission is to make it easier for people to collaborate, co-ordinate and provide better support for people experiencing homelessness, and make it easier for citizens and business to do something to help.
The app is already used in Manchester, Leeds and Bournemouth and on Tuesday at 11:30 am Portsmouth will get its own. The app will be officially launched in the John Pounds Centre, 23 Queen St, Portsmouth, PO1 3HN.
After it is launched, the app will be available from the Apple App Store and Google Play.
I'm very sad to have to tell you that I have just heard from Patricia Bingham that John died on Wednesday evening with family around. Until a few days ago he was still seen around the village but there was a very rapid deterioration during the last few days. Patricia commented that it was a merciful release.
The funeral will be next Thursday 5th October at 2pm All Saints Denmead PO7 6NN.
As a record of his work for Friends Without Borders I attach the script of my speech at his retirement presentation. He will be greatly missed.
Michael Woolley, Chairman Friends Without Borders
Extract from the presentation to John Bingham on 3rd May 2017
"Just last month John Bingham retired from active service helping refugees and asylum seekers in Portsmouth. He is a modest man and we don’t think he will much enjoy being centre of attention. However it is a significant moment when a man like John retires and we should record what has been achieved.
In 1994 he heard from his son, then serving in the Congo, about a Congolese man being held in a local prison near to Portsmouth. The prison was Haslar and John and Patricia (John’s wife) went to visit him. There weren’t any Immigration Removal Centres in those days so immigration officers with someone they wanted to detain would ring round local prisons to find a bed. There were other immigrants held in Haslar and so the idea of organising visitors for them was born. Haslar Visitors Group was formed that year, recruited a number of local visitors and started the regular visiting of men who otherwise would have had no link with the outside world. In due course it grew into a registered charity and I was appointed as a paid coordinator with an office in this building.
Detention was quite arbitrary at that time, indeed one immigration officer wrote a novel called (I think) ‘Asylum Shoes’ the title based on the idea that immigration officers detained people because of the style of their footwear. It might have been an exaggeration, but only just, things really were quite arbitrary.
Bail was possible - though in the 1990s cases were heard not in a specialist immigration court but in front of the local magistrates in Havant. Realising that these hearings normally took place in empty court-rooms without any public scrutiny John and Patricia organised the Havant Court Monitoring Project. The magistrates were rather taken aback to find the public benches in their courts filled with people taking notes
Monitoring the courts is today done by Bail for Immigration Detainees and that’s become a well-known charity - but I wonder how many of you know that it used to have an office in Portsmouth? There was BID London, BID Oxford, and BID South with an office first in Gosport and later in this building. Lots of volunteers were recruited and lots of people got bail, not only from Haslar but also from Dover Immigration Removal Centre. John and Patricia Bingham not only set up the office they also helped run the project. John was a trustee of BID for some years.
He was also still the Chairman of Haslar Visitors Group and in the 2005 I, as paid coordinator, went to the trustees with an urgent request. A drop-in was being run in All Saints by a charity called Portsmouth Area Refugee Support. They had a number of paid staff, offices upstairs, and held the drop-in in this room. Their funding came from the Lottery and when the funding ended it was announced that the drop in would close at the end of the month. This seemed outrageous to me and Laura so our urgent request to the Haslar trustees was to find the money to pay the rent and pay for refreshments while we tried to keep the drop-in going. It was a big ask for a small charity but the Chairman, John, was behind us and Haslar Visitors Group took over the drop-in and ran it for some months until someone from the Red Cross rang up and said they were coming to join us. Frankly my feelings at the time were rather mixed, pleased and relieved on the one hand but frankly a touch put out that the announcement was made so brusquely. It would have been nice to have been asked! John reminded me that we were here to serve the needs of our clients.
Things don’t always go smoothly in the charity world and BID suffered a setback when BID London decided to close the provincial offices and focus on national campaigning. John then came to Haslar Visitors Group with a request of his own: to run an Access to Justice Project, as part of our group. John Bingham not only inspired it he was one of the first volunteers. Shortly afterwards IRC Haslar closed, the Visitors Group changed its name to Friends Without Borders and we became an all-volunteer charity.
John Bingham has quietly played a very large and very honourable part in the serving the asylum seekers and refugees of Portsmouth.
Of course he has not done this entirely alone, Patricia played a significant role in the early years and there have been a host of others – a large part of his skill is in knowing how to delegate. It is a remarkable story John and we thank and salute you at your retirement. There’s a remarkable card left in the office which says it all. I quote: “Thank you so much! I really appreciate all the time and effort you put into helping me with my visa! It will really change my life! You are a very kind man and I wish you all the best”.
We wish you all the best too John. Thank you."
Stephen plans to come back next week to sit in with one of our advisers and learn at the front line how we can help.
Our AGM took place on 3rd May at All Saints, Portsmouth.
After a short meeting covering the official business of the charity, the Journeymen Players gave us a performance of their latest one hour play “The Bundle”, a play based on the true story an asylum seeker.
After the play there was a free supper so that people could meet and talk. It was our way of saying “thank you” to all the people who support us
There was a Vigil for Refugees in Portsmouth Cathedral on 14th March, from Morning Prayer till Evensong. About 30 people joined us for various periods during the day, some from Chichester and some from Portsmouth. There were nine short “reflections” by various speakers of different faiths and none, some very thought provoking. It was a good day.
Our AGM will be taking place on Tuesday 19th April from 7pm. We are delighted to be welcoming our friend and colleague from the Red Cross, Malcolm Little, who will be speaking on the topic of 'The Syrians Coming to Hampshire'. We will also be discussing the ways in which FWB have transitioned to an entirely volunteer run organisation.
All are welcome, refreshments will be provided. The AGM will be taking place at All Saints Church, Portsmouth PO1 4BT.