The legacy of the Year of Mercy lives on as Caritas Archdiocese of Birmingham awards £5,000 to charities that support vulnerable refugees and migrants.
Brushstrokes Community Project and Solihull Welcome have each received £2,500 to support their work. The payments are the last from a special collection taken by parishes across the Archdiocese during the Year of Mercy, after Pope Francis called for all Catholics to consider how they could welcome the stranger in their communities.
The Archdiocese of Birmingham sought ways to support existing and new asylum seekers and refugees and chose to hold a second collection at Mass to raise funds. Parishes responded overwhelmingly to the appeal. Caritas Secretariat, Father Hudson’s Care, collated the donations to hold on behalf of the Caritas network who distributed the funds on a grant basis.
Since 2016, Caritas has awarded grants to causes that welcome and care for refugees the length and breadth of the Archdiocese.
It has enabled communities to provide shelter to destitute asylum seekers and refugees, offer food, resources and advocacy, provide a welcoming service into local communities and deliver English language lessons and other activities.
Both of the two final recipients offer the hand of friendship to vulnerable and destitute refugees, asylum seekers and migrants. The funding will enhance their offer of support to people in need.
Located just five minutes’ walk from the Home Office, Solihull Welcome offers friendship and support to vulnerable newcomers. Volunteers from the project stand on the streets, giving out leaflets to people who would benefit from their services and directing them to the project’s centre in St Augustine’s Church Hall. There, people find a friendly, welcoming atmosphere amongst friends. Volunteers offer tea, coffee, soup, toast and sandwiches to their visitors.
The project also gives out toys, clothes and shoes to individuals and families in need. They provide necessities such as toothpaste, shampoo, washing powder and long-life food for people who are destitute. Working with the Red Cross, they provide support and advice to clients as well as signposting to other places that can help.
The funding from Caritas Archdiocese of Birmingham will help cover the rent and the cost of food, helping them to continue to welcome people through their doors.
Brushstrokes is based in Smethwick, where it supports destitute refugees, asylum seekers and migrants from Sandwell, West Birmingham and the surrounding area.
They give out essential household items, food, clothes and toys; provide English lessons, including those that enable medically qualified migrants to practice in England; deliver workshops and activities; provide immigration advice and other services to support people in need; and run a community café that brings together people from different faiths, cultures and languages.
Demand for their services has grown and they moved to bigger premises in September 2019 to cope with the increase. Their new building on Smethwick High Street puts them at the heart of the community they serve.
Brushstrokes used the money to purchase key items for the new community café – a serving hatch, instant hot water dispenser and two tables. These items will enable Brushstrokes to continue to extend a warm and friendly welcome and build a hospitable community.
Dave Newall, project manager at Brushstrokes, said: “Brushstrokes Community Café provides a visible example of community integration in the midst of Smethwick. New and longstanding residents serve and are served, sharing food and friendship and building an understanding of community together. The donation from Caritas Archdiocese of Birmingham towards the café will help us continue to ‘welcome the stranger’ in the year ahead, through our newly refurbished kitchen in Brushstrokes’ new home.”
Mercy lives on across Archdiocese
The final donations mark the end of the funds, but the legacy of care will continue in communities throughout our Archdiocese as those groups continue to respond to the needs of their brothers and sisters from across the world. They put faith into action by offering a hand of friendship at people’s time of need and walking with them as they take steps towards their new lives.
This work has been greatly bolstered thanks to the generosity of people who choose to show mercy and compassion to strangers.
Dave said, “Through your support we will be able to continue to offer hospitality to over 40 individuals a week. The generosity of parishes is helping us give people the time and space to feel less isolated and that there is somewhere they feel they can belong.”