My name is Jess Beagent, and I have the enormous privilege of working as the Youth Service Coordinator at Asylum Welcome. I work with 14–25-year-olds who are alone in the UK, far from their parents and families.
This year we expect to provide support to more than 3,000 clients. But, as the last few days and weeks have shown, the challenges we face are growing all the time.
For instance, since we began preparing this letter, the situation in Oxford has changed dramatically. Throughout November we have had over 500 new arrivals. These men, women and children often have only the clothes that they came in and are ill-equipped for the winter months. It is crucial that Asylum Welcome links these people with the appropriate health services, helps them with their asylum claims and provides overarching care and support for their everyday wellbeing.
However, local authorities and agencies like ours were given no notice, no time to prepare, nor any additional resources. Our capacity is being stretched tremendously, and we predict that in the coming months we will continue to receive many more people who need our support.
In these uncertain times, we rely on donations from supporters like you, so we can provide the help that is so urgently needed.
For many of us, Christmas brings the joy of familiar traditions, presents and the warm embrace of loved ones. Yet for most of my young clients the festive season can be an incredibly lonely and difficult time.
At Asylum Welcome, we are seeing an increasing number of young people who have braved terrifying journeys, the cruelties of conflict and live every day with the loneliness of family separation. Now, as my caseload increases and our clients face the toughest of winters, I need your help more than ever.
Below is the story of just one of our many amazing clients, Sayed. Although the young people we work with have faced tremendous hardships, every day we get to see them reach their potential with a strength and determination like no other. Our young clients are our most vulnerable, but they are also our most resilient. Sayed’s story highlights that, even when the odds are against someone, with your support, we can help these young people to lead their lives as the amazingly passionate, talented and caring individuals they are.
At only 18 years old, Sayed* arrived in the UK alone, uprooted from everything he’d ever known. Placed in a hotel in Liverpool for older adults seeking asylum. Sayed was not only separated from all his loved ones but from all his peers in his age group too.
A message of solidarity from one of our young supporters.
Contacting us in July 2022, Sayed explained he had found out that his brother, who he had not seen for many years, was living in Oxford with his young family. Knowing that his brother and sister-in-law were in Oxford while he was alone in Liverpool magnified the loneliness Sayed was feeling, and his mental health declined.
Despite Sayed living outside of Oxford, we were deeply concerned for his wellbeing and continued to provide emotional and practical support. We advocated for his move to Oxford to be closer to his brother, liaised with his GP in Liverpool to ensure the right support was available and paid for him to visit his relatives.
Then in October, he was told to leave the hotel in Liverpool after visiting his brother in Oxford. The Home Office told Sayed that he no longer met the criteria for staying in the hotel, forcing him into homelessness.
However, through our Youth Service, we were able to provide Sayed with the intensive help he urgently needed. We referred Sayed to Sanctuary Hosting and provided him with emergency accommodation in Oxford, reuniting him with his brother and vastly improving his support. Recently, we got word from his family to say “thank you so much from all of us. We can’t thank you enough”.
To this day, we continue to support Sayed – we’ve helped him enrol in Sixth Form college as he dreams of pursuing education as far as he can. We have signed him up for a bike through our bike project so he can cycle to school and have welcomed him into our Venda Club to help him experience a sense of community and build his confidence as the promising young man that he is.
With your support, we can continue to tackle the hardships many of our unaccompanied young children will face in the coming months.
Our Venda Club has become the beating heart of what we do at Asylum Welcome. It provides a warm and welcoming weekly safe space where our young clients can meet and make friends, play games, go on trips and put aside their daily troubles.
In the last few weeks, I have had more and more conversations with these young people, who are terrified of what the future may hold, fearing deportation to Rwanda, age dispute, and starting their life alone in a new country.
Which is why I am writing to you today… would you be able to make a special donation to help support young people like Sayed? It will make all the difference to the everyday lives of the young people who rely on our unique range of services.
If you can, please donate securely here. If you have not already, would you please consider making a regular donation with a standing order? This really helps us plan ahead.
Whatever the future brings, my colleagues and I know that, with your support, we will continue to stand up for refugees. In the words of one of our young supporters, “We are holding hands and we won’t let go”.
Join hands with Asylum Welcome today and help us to support hundreds of other young people like Sayed this winter.
Thank you so much – and the best of wishes for the New Year.
*Clients name has been changed to protect his privacy.
Every Tuesday evening, up to 25 young people meet at the Venda Club and enjoy an evening of fun-filled activities, with a slice of pizza! This may not sound particularly special – but for the young people we support it is a real lifeline.
Please click here to read a couple of wonderful reflections from our young clients talking about what Venda means to them…
Providing a home away from home, Venda is a light in the dark for these young people. It’s a true lifeline for everyone who comes. Your donation today will help us continue to expand this much-needed service into the New Year and beyond. Thank you for your support.
This year, one of our young clients, Aynodeen, designed our charming Christmas Card, which you can see above (front and back) or by clicking here.
Packs of 5 cards are available to purchase from our Welcome Centre (suggested donation £5). All proceeds will be donated directly to our weekly Venda youth club.
Warmest wishes to you and your loved ones during the festive season, from everyone at Asylum Welcome.