For most of us, digital devices are so ubiquitous and ordinary that it can be easy to take them for granted. However, for many of Asylum Welcome’s clients, who are forced to start their lives afresh in an unfamiliar environment far from their loved ones, these devices are of paramount importance and can make a world of difference in a time of great upheaval and trauma.
Over the past two years, the number of people we support has more than doubled. Asylum Welcome has welcomed Afghans, Ukrainians, and many others fleeing conflict and persecution from Iran to Sudan as well as those from countries whose troubles are less present on our screens. In recent months, we have distributed over 240 laptops and electronic devices – but the need is still growing.
Iryna Linkevych, a Community Liaison Officer with our Ukrainian Team said:
Since I’ve visited more than 80 Ukrainian families in Oxfordshire, I can say that many of them really need laptops, as they need to learn English online, look for a job, study different courses, and even have leisure time watching movies or cartoons with children (which helps to distract from the stress that they are faced with having to leave their homes, friends, their usual life…).
Jess Beagant, Asylum Welcome’s Youth Service Coordinator, added:
We have many unaccompanied children arriving in Oxford who have to wait months before they
can start school or college. Having a laptop means that they can start online ESOL classes and
practice their language and computer skills ahead of starting school so they do not feel left behind
when they begin. It also means that they can contact family members and friends through social
media which is so important.
Many of our asylum-seeking clients are living in temporary accommodation. They are not allowed to work or eligible for mainstream benefits and must rely on an allowance of just £9 per week. Without our help, a laptop would remain a distant dream. Without it, they would be cut off from loved ones, education, enjoyment, and vital support networks.
In their own words, our clients told us:
The laptop has been great. The laptop is a source of entertainment, warding off boredom and keeping me engaged. It really has helped me. Thank you.
The laptop has many benefits for me. For example, l learn [English] language online and keep my documents [safe].
Thanks to a generous grant from the Santander Foundation, Asylum Welcome’s Digital Inclusion Services has expanded significantly this year. This has enabled us to do more than just provide digital devices to people in urgent need. We can now also offer tuition, assisting individuals of all ages and backgrounds to log in – sometimes for the first time – to access crucial support and connect with their communities.
One young client told us:
I had never used a laptop before now, but thanks to your help I can send and receive emails, download apps, and find entertainment! I also have no TV at home, so this laptop lets me watch movies and football, which helps me feel less isolated. I use it to do my English exercises every day.
Our staff and volunteers have been deeply touched by the number of people coming forward to seek assistance and by their stories. This includes the person who confessed that they hadn’t wanted to upset us by revealing that they had no idea how to use the laptop someone had kindly donated to them.
Our weekly digital drop-ins are a lifeline for our vulnerable clients – and we are proud of the fact that 80% of the volunteers delivering this service are themselves asylum seekers. This is an impressive example of mutual aid and solidarity, which is uplifting to witness. However, due to the continuously increasing demand for laptops, we have been forced to temporarily close the waiting list. This is why we are launching an urgent appeal today.
If you are in a position to offer assistance by donating a laptop, tablet, or smartphone, we would be enormously grateful. See more details of the appeal overleaf.
Eddie Delacour, Asylum Welcome’s Digital Inclusion Coordinator said:
For many of the people we support, their laptop serves as a gateway to the world. It offers them opportunities and connections that are essential for their survival and integration. Getting online can play a crucial role in combating the feelings of loneliness and isolation experienced by so many refugees and asylum seekers. Whether it’s an old smartphone tucked away in your kitchen drawer or unused IT equipment from your workplace, every contribution, big or small, makes an immediate and lasting difference in our mission to combat digital exclusion among the people we support.
Can you help?
Asylum Welcome is appealing for donations of laptops, tablets and smartphones. Donated devices must be in good working and physical condition.
The most useful device is a laptop less than 10 years old, in full working order, with a webcam, and ideally accompanied by its charger. It is highly advisable to ensure that you remove any personal data from your devices before donating them.
Laptops can be dropped off at our Welcome Centre (Unit 7, Newtec Place, Magdalen Road, Oxford, OX4 1RE) from Monday to Friday between 9:30 am and 4 pm.
For more details, please contact our Digital Inclusion Coordinator, Eddie Delacour <firstname.lastname@example.org>.