A local refugee charity is calling on Bedfordians to volunteer this weekend to urgently help them sort through and categorise their donations.
Since the crisis in Afghanistan in the summer, generous Bedfordians have donated everything from clothing and toiletries and toys to Friends of Refugees (FOR), thanks to drop-off points at Belvoir Estate Agents on Tavistock Street and local Coop branches.
This Saturday, FOR is running a sorting event from 1pm to 5pm in the hall of the Church of the Latter Day Saints at 187a Bedford Road in Kempston.
These events are relaxed, friendly and uplifting, with music playing and snacks generously provided by the Coop. Volunteers can get in touch beforehand, or just turn up on the day. Masks and hand sanitisers are provided.
Friends of Refugees Bedford (FOR), founded six years ago, helps refugees locally to begin their lives again.
Often arriving with nothing, after traumatic journeys, their needs range from English classes to basic furniture, clothing and bicycles. The charity partners with groups and the council to help refugees integrate into the local community, filling in the gaps left by official provisions.
A listening ear and friendship is sometimes the most important thing that can help families and individuals to settle well.
It was pictures of the body of three-year-old Alan Kurdi, drowned with his family while escaping Syria back in 2015, that roused people all over Europe to the plight of those escaping the world’s most dangerous places.
Now, FOR is stepping up once more to provide for families fleeing the Taliban and settling in the local area.
One of the people that FOR has supported is Ahmed. He told the Bedford Independent: “I am a refugee from Sudan. I arrived in Bedford in 2017, aged 15, on my own. I was living in a hostel, but it was scary and I had no one else to help me.
“After a few months, I found out about Friends of Refugees who helped me to make a nice place to live until I got my status. And they helped all the way through my education by providing things such as books and a laptop.
“I can’t find a right way to thank them. Now I have a new social worker and on top of that I have Friends of Refugees alongside to me to integrate into society. I want to thank everyone who is giving their help to help people like me to get a better life.”
Can you help people like Ahmed?
On Saturday, lots of volunteers are needed to help sort, categorise and box donations so that they can go to where they are most needed. Can you help?
Chair of the charity, Caroline Gregory, said: “It is only an accident of birth that separates the experience of refugees from our own. All of us would make the same decisions to escape war, torture and persecution and find a safe place for our families.
“I have seen how generous the people of Bedford are and hope that we can all pull together again to welcome some of the world’s most desperate people.”