We have been able to buy computers for the children of asylum-seeking families with thanks to a generous grant of £6,000 from the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Community Foundation (HiWCF), who have been working with the National Emergencies Trust to distribute emergency funds to local charities and voluntary groups.
These children are less likely to have access to computers at home, and this risked impacting their educational development. Within two and half weeks of receiving the grant, we have been able to distribute laptops to 18 children, with 5 more on order.
This was quite an exercise, not least because there are order limits in place, due to the demand on laptops at the moment. We are delighted to have been able to made a difference to these children by ensuring they have the equipment needed to participate fully in their education.
Our twice-a-week Drop in closed on Monday 16th March. We pay just over thirty of our destitute clients during the morning sessions – some for fares and some as a living allowance. On Monday 16th we paid two weeks money to each client - £1,300 in all. This was a good move as it meant they had something to live on while we set up a new system.
The Drop in would normally have been open the following Thursday (19th) - but of course it was closed. Before the day came we contacted all our regular Thursday payees by text and phone call and managed to get out their payments.
We then had a relatively relaxed few days to contact our Monday payees before 30th when they were next due their money and are now distributing the payments largely by BACS.
So one thing we are doing is keeping up payments to the destitute. It is a bit of a struggle but the need is real, for example, a Syrian family of five who were sent from London, after the lockdown, by the Home Office. They had been allocated a furnished house but their Aspen (payment) card didn't work when they arrived or for a week after. And though the house was furnished they said they felt very cold and modestly requested a blanket each. The money problem was alleviated by us giving them £50 cash on two occasions - delivered by a volunteer. Thank you.
For the blankets I put out an appeal to our WhatsApp group and was almost instantly contacted by another volunteer who took round two large blankets, two small blankets and a sleeping bag. Heartwarming.
Another challenge is isolation, which bears down on clients and volunteers alike. So we have begun to ask our wonderful volunteers to take on a bit of telephone befriending. They have all taken on two clients (except for one eager lady who has got five!) The clients of course have got themselves out of war-zones, across the Mediterranean, across Europe and through the Calais Jungle. They are a robust lot - but we thought a friendly phone call might be welcome. It is nice to know someone is thinking of you.
Meanwhile we are concerned about how the crisis will affect our fund-raising. Some of our costs have gone down – we no longer have to pay for travel or refreshments, but our donations are likely to go down too – no church collections this month for example. It’s a balancing act and the figures are quite large – we expect to spend over £4,000 this month in grants to the needy.
We are hugely grateful to all the supporters who make this work possible - anyone else wanting to help, can donate here. Let us know who you are and we shall say “thank you” but in case you’d rather be anonymous, let me say a sincere thank you right now. The money will go to good use helping some destitute asylum seeker currently having a hard time.