Case Study: Reading Refugee Support Group

Delivering online services to support refugees and asylum seekers

A £5,000 grant awarded
307 refugees and asylum seekers helped
Five new online activities created

In 2020, Reading Refugee Support Group (RRSG) received £5,000 from our Vital For Berkshire – Coronavirus Fund, to help it deliver services remotely for refugees through lockdown.

Reading Refugee Support Group has helped refugees and asylum seekers in Berkshire for over 25 years. Committed to reducing their suffering and isolation, it offers individuals and families practical help, legal advice, social and emotional support, and much more.

The Coronavirus pandemic hit refugees very badly. Required to suspend all face-to-face activities, the charity urgently needed funding to migrate their services online to help their beneficiaries deal with unprecedented levels of poverty, housing and food instability, poor mental health and isolation.

With the Coronavirus relief funding, RRSG moved its operations online. This entailed a lot of IT purchases, particularly as digital exclusion is especially severe amongst refugees. Casework appointments were held using video call technology. RRSG organised 175 sessions in total, supporting clients five days a week through emergencies such as housing issues and healthcare barriers. During this time, it made almost twice the number of food parcel referrals than it normally does.

It also continued English classes and started new activities such as Mindfulness, Art and Drama to tackle anxiety, loneliness and depression. RRSG ran 192 hours of one-to-one English classes, focusing on befriending, building trust and allowing clients an outlet to have relaxed conversations. A total of 257 clients were helped through the wellbeing and creative sessions.

Through these sessions, RRSG was also able to keep refugees informed about ever-changing health advice and government rules, whilst combating myths and false information about the Coronavirus.

Nafisa, a physics graduate who participated in the “Refugees of Reading” photography project, said: “I was pleased to take part, and share my hopes and desires for the future as part of the community in Reading.” She is now working towards a Master’s degree.

“We are incredibly grateful to BCF for providing this funding during the most testing time we’ve ever known. The impact of the funding was massive in allowing us to provide additional support to our client group, and we are really pleased to have received it during a time of great need.”

The RRSG Team

Story of support

Thabo, an asylum seeker from Zimbabwe, is an active user of RRSG’s services. Talented in acting and passionate about drama, he has become an invaluable contributor to its online sessions – and has since become a Trustee at RRSG, bringing his lived experience into the charity’s planning and strategic decisions.

In early April, Thabo began suffering symptoms of a suspected COVID-19 case. RRSG delivered food parcels to him whilst he was in isolation, and its online delivery meant he was still able to take part in sessions when he felt well enough.

Through RRSG’s support, he has joined several projects including the Red Cross Voices Network, for which he is now an ambassador. Thabo  began developing his public speaking skills and will be completing his Ofqual recognised LAMDA exams (offered by the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art) soon.

In its 2020-2021 financial year, Berkshire Community Foundation made £3.2 million in grants funding to 230 charities and groups across the county, helping to make a difference to 1.5 million people in Berkshire.

These were made as part of the Vital for Berkshire – Coronavirus Fund – aiming to help charities and community groups address the urgent issues and needs arising from the first lockdown.

Find out more: Read other case studies of how we have supported charities’ response to the Coronavirus crisis in Berkshire.

Do more: Donate to our Vital for Berkshire Appeal to help us continue to address the most pressing needs in our local community.

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If you would like to know more about how you can support causes like this, to change lives for the better in Berkshire, please get in touch.

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