The Maternity Stream were lucky enough to be asked by the White Ribbon Alliance to join them the in the Tent of Sanctuary at Glastonbury Festival this year! With one very full car four us make our way down south to join 6 other maternity/refugee organisations; STAR, Help Refugees, Regional Asylum Activism, Praxis, Garas and of course The White Ribbon Alliance, to raise awareness about our work to the festival goers of Glastonbury, network with like-minded people and build a community whereby we can work more cohesively in the future.
We spent the weekend getting to know each other and learning about the work each organisation were currently doing, discussions were held and the public were welcomed with tea, a photography exhibition of where City of Sanctuary (CofS) and Maternity Stream volunteers have found sanctuary in the past, a cinema corner, an interactive map and a craft table. The rain kept the visitors coming into the tent, we spoke to all different types of people from all different backgrounds, some already worked in the refugee sector and others who knew nothing about it but wanted to learn. It was a great opportunity for us to spread the word about the Maternity Stream and the City of Sanctuary’s work, what we do, where we are and how to get involved. We displayed a list of all the cities where the CofS is currently based, which really helped to engage people and for them to relate to just how big our presence is across the country.
On Saturday there was a discussion around the result of the referendum and how this may affect asylum seekers and refugees. On Sunday we welcomed Refugee Action, including their founder and those who have volunteered in Calais recently as well as their patron, Juliette Stevens.
The discussion was based around what each organisation was currently doing and what could be done to ensure that we are communicating effectively across the sector. Refugee Action wanted to know more about how they could prepare those in Calais for entering the UK and going through the asylum process. CofS/Maternity Stream volunteers as always were able to offer an invaluable insight into this. They spoke about their experiences and gave advice on what they would have done had they known certain things before starting their own asylum application. They told Refugee Action that giving as much detail in your first asylum interview with the Home Office was crucial as any missing detail, no matter how minor it may seem, can really slow your application down. That people should expect it to take time, not to be scared and answer questions honestly.
The discussion was followed by sharing information on resources that are provided by different organisations. Antenatal classes are now being set up in Calais and therefore Maternity Stream resources, including our films could be used further afield and throughout camps in Calais. We are now hoping to work closely with Refugee Action to ensure that our films in particular will help prepare women about what they can expect from NHS services when they arrive in the UK – this could prove invaluable and help women to access services in a timely manner. If we can get the message across before people enter the country then there is hope that they will access services and feel confident about doing so. We spoke about the asylum process and signposted Refugee Action’s volunteers to resources that would enable them to share information on the process to those in Calais.
It was great to all come together and share information, knowing that this would be utilised throughout different organisations and eventually inform asylum seekers and refugees of their rights, what they can expect from the UK and the asylum process.
The Maternity Stream have been working closely with film maker Emilie Flower who was also in the Tent of Sanctuary. Emily created a cinema corner and showcased a film made up of information and short clips about organisations and the work they are doing.
Not only was it a fantastic opportunity to get to know each other in a professional capacity but we were fortunate enough to all be camping together and got time to enjoy the festival in the evening and offer our volunteers a weekend of sanctuary at Glastonbury Festival!
Thank you to everyone who made us feel so welcome, especially the White Ribbon Alliance who went out of their way to make our trip hassle free and accommodating. It was such a unique and special opportunity for all of us to be a part of. We’re really looking forward to working with everyone in the future, it was lovely to meet so many people, all with the same passion and striving to make our communities more welcoming and inclusive for asylum seekers and refugees.
Organisations in the Tent of Sanctuary:
Student Action for Refugees (STAR): STAR is a national charity of students welcoming refugees to the UK, together we volunteer at local refugee projects, campaign to improve the lives of refugees and educate people about refugees and asylum. If you are a student you can join your local STAR group or start your own! You can also sign up to our mailing list here. (If I spoke to you about specific volunteering in your area – I will be in touch with you I promise!) If you added your name to our #SafeRoutesSaveLives petition we are continuing to collect support so we can put pressure on the government before the UN summit on Refugees and Migrants in September.
Regional Asylum Activism: Informs and changes attitudes about asylum seekers and refugees and campaigns for positive change to the asylum system in the West Midlands, Yorkshire and Humberside and the North West. You can sign up to a regular campaign newsletter to find out how you can take action to ensure Refugees Are Welcome in the UK!
Help Refugees: Help Refugees are helping the most vulnerable refugees currently reaching Europe’s shore by supporting local groups, charities and volunteers who are at the front lines, carrying out life changing work in difficult circumstances. We partner with French charity L’Auberge des Migrants who run the biggest volunteer programme for Calais and Dunkirk. The types of tasks you’ll be asked to help us with include; sorting goods, cooking food, distribution of aid, building shelters and many other ad hoc duties that allow us to continue supporting the 6000 people living in the two camps. We ALWAYS need volunteers and would love to hear from you, especially if you can stay a week or more. We also need lots of donations.
Praxis: PraxisCommunity Projects, based in Bethnal Green in London, works with vulnerable migrants. They operate a walk in advice service and operates projects which seek to address the human rights of new migrants. Want to get involved?
GARAS: At GARAS (Gloucestershire Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers) we offer support to those seeking asylum in Gloucestershire, welcoming them when they arrive, advocating for them in their daily struggles, supporting them if they face being sent back as well as helping them adjust to their long term future if they are recognised as refugees. Find out what you can do to help.
White Ribbon Alliance: WhiteRibbon Alliance unites citizens to demand the right to a safe birth for every woman, everywhere. Our mission is to inspire and convene advocates who campaign to uphold the right of all women to be safe and healthy before, during and after childbirth. Our goal is to ensure that all women realise their rights to be safe and healthy before, during and after childbirth. Our vision is a world where the right of all women to be safe and healthy before, during and after childbirth is upheld. Here is how you can get involved.