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Refugee Allies

Refugee Allies is a social integration project generating empathy and fostering connection between Londoners and newcomers through public events, volunteering and public speaking.

Jo Winsloe-Slater

Jo Winsloe Slater

PROJECT COORDINATOR

Jo brings a wealth of experience from over twenty years co-ordinating projects in the fields of interfaith, social justice and social care in the non-governmental sector. During the winter of 2015/16 she and other members of the St Ethelburga staff team volunteered on the Greek island of Lesbos; an experience that inspired the co-creation of the programme, Refugee Allies. She holds a Diploma in group facilitation, conflict resolution and counselling (NAOS) and is a graduate of the International School of Storytelling. She is a current Trustee of The Forgiveness Project.

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Refugee Allies events are social gatherings bringing together local people and newcomers.  The events are structured, include all partcipants and focus around different, simple activities that engage everyone and encourage conversation and connection. The events are an experience of the things that connect and unite us, an expression of our shared humanity.

Each event includes may include all or some of the following:

  • A welcome and outline of the day
  • Language focused and activity workshops
  • Hot, vegetarian lunch and refreshments during the day
  • Live music
  • Spaces for relaxing, chatting with familiar and new friends.
  • Children’s corner

The events are free to refugees and asylum seekers and we can cover bus pass travel.  We encourage local, established Londoners to donate £5 towards the cost of travel for refugees and asylum seeking guests.

A few words from guests

  • “I love this place!  No religion; all religion.  No country; all country.  Freedom!!”
  • ‘Where I come [from there is] one religion, one way.  Today I learn so much”
  • “We forgot our divisions today”     “I learnt how curious I am about other people’s cultures”
  • “I felt inspired seeing all the other people around me”

How to get involved

We would love to hear from you if you would like to volunteer your time and talents in the following ways:

  • Welcome – Set up welcoming spaces for adults and children.
  • Catering – Preparing food, cooking, setting out refreshments.
  • Childcare – Offering engaging activities to children.
  • Care-taking – returning the Centre back to normal.
  • Workshops – running 45 min session that supports wellbeing, hope, laughter, fun, etc
  • Music – musicians and singers – especially if they are able to include participation from the audience for relevant pieces

Get in touch:  email Jo Winsloe Slater or text, call/Whatsap Jo on 07725954005

Upcoming Events

Check out our Events Page for upcoming events.

Past events

Photos from past events.  Guests in these pictures gave consent for their photos to be taken.


The story so far

The summer of 2015 brought into sharp focus the politics and consequences of war and global inequalities as more than a million men, women and children fleeing their homelands in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, risked their lives to seek refuge and a better life in Europe. In response to the images that daily filled our screens, that same winter staff from St Ethelburga’s Centre volunteered on the island of Lesbos, a hot-spot amid the unfolding humanitarian crisis. From this life and view-changing experience, The Refugee Allies project emerged.  How could others share in this experience of human connection and interconnectedness?  How would the experience change us and contribute to building more empathic, resilient communities?

The aims of Refugee Allies are twofold:

  • To co-create meaningful spaces of encounter between all Londoners – those who are settled here and those who are seeking refuge and building a new life in the city.
  • To provide a volunteering experience for Londoners to contribute humanitarian support in a camp in Europe (next programme Autumn 2019).

In November 2016, we took our first team of ten London participants of Refugee Allies to volunteer for a week in Ointofyta Camp just north of Athens. Their invitation from Camp manager, Lisa Campbell of American NGO, Do Your Part, was unexpectedly, to ‘beautify’ the living spaces. Their task was not to ‘do’ for the camp residents; but to collaborate with them, be led by them in design and to facilitate residents’ own ideas. No-one imagined what would emerge from our encounter; an explosion of creativity that travelled along every corridor and drew in child and elder alike, transforming the walls and changing minds; some residents who had never spoken were discussing paint and sharing ideas, others who had avoided one another were crossing the corridors and painting together.

Images of the paintings and posts from participants can be found on our Refugee Allies Facebook page with a special album of images here.

Participants returned from the volunteering deeply inspired and motivated to highlight the plight of refugees in Greece, and to create a place of meeting and welcome in London. Our first gathering of refugees and asylum seekers, of Londoners and relevant organisations, was held in February 2017 and we have hosted social gatherings regularly since.  If you would like to join the ‘Refugee Allies’ community, see how you can get involved in ‘Events’ above.

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