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Justice First volunteering event, Ampleforth

Justice First Volunteering Event, Ampleforth

“So the small things came into their own: small acts of helping others, if one could; small ways of making one’s own life better: acts of love, acts of tea, acts of laughter” (Alexander McCall Smith)

The Yarm School minibus set off from Stockton on Sunday morning containing a remarkably diverse group of people both in terms of age and nationality. Along with Miss Dixon-Barker and Yarm pupils who had kindly given up their Sunday to volunteer, were staff and clients from Justice First, a local charity that offers vital assistance and support to people seeking asylum in the Tees Valley area. The aim of our trip was quite simple; to provide a rare and much-needed day out for families from marginalized communities who would otherwise not have the means or the opportunity. We were welcomed with open arms by the parish of Our Lady and Saint Benedict in Ampleforth whose generosity and hospitality were boundless. What followed was a day of games, food, music, laughter and conversation, language proving no barrier as people of all ages gathered on the sports field, around the table and on the dance floor, accompanied by the wonderful sound of Congolese drumming. In the idyllic setting of the North York Moors it was easy to forget why we were there but perhaps that was the point. For people who have fled persecution and who have witnessed horrors that we cannot imagine, a day of simple and straightforward fun must be a welcome respite and a chance to relax in lives that can be chaotic and filled with uncertainty. This was expressed most graciously by friend of and frequent visitor to Yarm, Sierra Leonese journalist Susan Mansaray, who recently was herself granted ‘leave to remain’ after several years embroiled in the asylum process. Susan spoke movingly of her own experiences and of how difficult and unpleasant the asylum system can be with no sense of security or certainty about the future for those who are a part of it. Susan extended her thanks on behalf of everyone there for the opportunity to be not ‘asylum seekers’ but just people enjoying one another’s company, a chance to laugh and have fun.

Sunday’s event was just one example of the important work that Justice First does and yet despite the crucial support that it provides the charity operates on a shoestring and could not function without contributions and volunteers. For further information on the charity including volunteering opportunities, see http://justicefirst.org.uk/

Along with Justice First, the Politics Department would like to pass on our sincere gratitude and appreciation for the efforts made by our pupil volunteers and Miss Dixon-Barker and thank them for giving up their valuable time to help such a worthwhile cause.

Mrs J Weston

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