Located in central Birmingham, our partnership project Fatima House offers a sanctuary to vulnerable women who would otherwise be destitute and homeless.
Mauricio Silva, one of the Columban Lay Missionaries who manages Fatima House on a day-to-day basis, writes:
2020 will be remembered as a very strange year. Everyone’s life has been affected and, with much sadness, we have physically distanced ourselves from others in order to protect each other. At the same time we have also witnessed the generous service of many essential workers whose unwavering commitment has provided safety and sanctuary to the most vulnerable at a critical time.
In the midst of it all, Fatima House continued to offer sanctuary to destitute women in Birmingham. This year, ten women have been accommodated and provided with care and support by volunteers and benefactors. During the successive lockdown periods, they have come together to support each other as well as to make of the house a safe place for all.
Despite the restrictions, some of them have been able to secure alternative accommodation and move back into the asylum system. Early in the year, we heard the good news that a former resident was granted refugee status.
In July, Fatima House received a Respond and Adapt grant to provide our residents with a computer station. The grant enabled us to obtain two desktop computers and accessories, including wi-fi so our residents can access the internet. Respond and Adapt is a programme of aligned grant-making and learning in support of the UK migration and refugee sector. The programme is a joint initiative of Migration Exchange, Refugee Action and NACCOM. It supports organisations to respond to the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and to work together to build a foundation for long-term recovery and system change.
The SVP Warwickshire District raised £3,900 to support the women staying here. Women staying at Fatima House receive £20 each week to cover transport, phone and food. The money raised by the SVP covered half of this, going directly to the women so they can support themselves. The residents are grateful for this practical support and wish to convey their best wishes to all the SVP members at Christmas.
From February to September the residents and volunteers worked very hard to clean and tidy up the area at the back of Fatima house. It took only a few weeks of work to transform a dull and lifeless area into a beautiful kitchen garden, as well as an area of relaxation. Using the funds awarded by the National Lottery Awards For All, the garden now has beautiful furniture, the decking area has been redecorated and it is surrounded by lovely plants, pots and beddings. We are hoping to hold a garden party in 2021 and look forward to inviting special guests to celebrate with us.
As we end 2020, we ask again for your prayers for people seeking sanctuary in the UK. New legislation is making even harder for them to access adequate legal and practical support. May the life of Jesus, who also sought sanctuary with his family, when journeying on earth, continue to inspire many to serve the needs of those seeking refuge among us.