‘I can be myself, I can talk about my problems, it is confidential and I can trust.’
‘It is a liberating experience to be with someone who wants to be there, not someone whose job it is, someone who listens and looks to solve problems.’
These are the comments of just two of the refugees who have been helped by Refugee Resource over the past year. Refugee Resource (originally known as the Oxford Refugee Support Project) was set up in 1997 to help refugees and asylum seekers with mental health problems. Three years later it broadened its work to finding jobs and training op-portunities for them and it now does good advocacy and information work. It has recently published a report about access to primary healthcare services for refugees and migrants in Oxford, for example, in which it makes some useful recommendations.
Another programme run by Refugee Resource is for refugee ‘mentors’. Through this, volunteers are matched up with someone who is seeking asylum or has refugee status in Oxfordshire. They give initial help with finding solutions to essential needs such as housing, medical care, English courses and education for children etc. and then usually have a weekly meeting to check up on how things are going and offer further assistance if necessary. Wherever possible, Refugee Resource invites refugees themselves to help to run the services it offers.
Over the last year, Refugee Resource has supported 152 refugees, asylum seekers, and vulnerable migrants of twenty-four nationalities, through the counselling, mentoring, and women’s services (through their Women’s Community Education and Empowerment Programme). Many more were supported by their advice and advocacy service in part-nership with Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB). Twenty-three of their clients who had received counselling or mentoring were able to start an education or training course or to enter employment and a further ten started work experience.
Nine more are working as volunteers.
Refugee Resource has also set up a football team which has over forty active members, and twenty of the boys are now participating in a ten-week course run in conjunction with Oxfordshire Mind and Oxford United Football Club. Given the current situation of refugees, it can hardly be necessary to point out the importance of all these strands of the work of Refugee Resource which does a great deal to complement that of other organizations, including Asylum Wel-come. It is our Mission of the Month for November, but any further donations would be gratefully received and should be sent to its office in The Old Music Hall, 106-108 Cowley Rd, Oxford OX4 1JE or can be made on line (www. refugeeresource.org.uk).