At South London Refugee Association (SLRA), we have not only continued our immigration advice services remotely during the COVID19 lockdown, but also looked at ways to make people still feel part of a wider, supportive community. This community feeling has always been really important at SLRA – but how to do that when the weekly communal lunches during our advice drop-ins, friendly ESOL classes, Youth club, and Women Group cannot take place anymore?
One of our many community services that has moved online since the lockdown is our weekly Women Group – now hosted online. The regular video calls have become a space for women to connect with each other, share their feelings and struggles, get some time off, and be creative together.
As one of our members said the women’s group is important because it “teaches you something that you didn’t know before, it’s like a family, learning together”.
With the help of our volunteers, we have sent out craft kits to all the women and we are currently working on a community quilt – each creating her part at home. The quilt tells the women’s stories, struggles and hopes.
We are also documenting some of the discussions we have in the group sessions. This is a text that emerged from one of our discussions, which are so meaningful during this current time of anti-racist struggles where we have a lot to learn from each other:
We are a group of excellent women and we want change!
We want our lives back. We want our independence, freedom and justice.
We fight against injustice, racism, inhumanity and gender discrimination. We fight against being invisible and not being heard, and against waiting in insecurity and the endless not knowing. And we will reach this in togetherness.
We want to feel protected, to feel needed and to be looked after, to be productive, to help each other, and to have space for self-development.
We deserve to be able to care for our families and offer the best for our children. We deserve to be treated with respect and to be treated fairly. We want our voices to be heard, to speak up, and to access our basic rights to housing, food and safety.
And finally, we all deserve a good vacation.