I have enjoyed an invaluable opportunity this summer volunteering with Meeting Point. This is an excellent charity based at Christ Church in Armley providing practical and emotional support for refugees and asylum seekers currently living in Leeds. Helping people from all round the world – including parts of Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Europe – it also aims to help people work towards social integration in this country.
The beneficiaries of this charity have left their homes and normal life and are often in a very difficult situation living in another country where English is not their first language. People in this situation are often living in a state of limbo waiting for a decision from the Home Office on their legal status and can be waiting for years. Some are destitute, some not allowed to work or receive benefits and some don’t have a home. They can be isolated and struggle physically and mentally. They may not have family or friends in this new country. Their situation is often challenging and precarious and many rely on charities for support.
Every Monday Meeting Point runs a drop-in session where beneficiaries receive a hot meal, a prepared bag of food containing a mixture of fresh fruit and vegetables, bread and pastries and additional items of dried food and meat which they can select. They can also receive clothes and household items. Whilst here they can get support and advice in many forms including health and employment advice.
In addition, Meeting Point runs a Women’s Group, English classes, trips and other activities. For example, during the summer trips have been running for all the family.
As well as providing the practical support of food and clothes Meeting Point helps people emotionally by making them part of a community and helping them make friends. Many beneficiaries of Meeting Point subsequently become involved themselves with volunteering and helping the charity.
The work here is led by Emma Crossley and supported by a team of staff and volunteers. I’ve found them all to be extremely friendly and totally dedicated in their work.
Meeting Point has helped me realise the enormous hardship and challenge these people and their families have faced in their lives. However, talking to the people here is always a really positive experience for me as they are always incredibly friendly. I am continually impressed by and admire their resilience and determination.
My experience here has given me knowledge and insight into an important global issue affecting millions of people around the world. The terrible images of suffering from Afghanistan highlight the plight of refugees and asylum seekers. Meeting Point has also led me to consider how we can find ways to reach out to help people in these situations and I would hope to remain involved going forward.