Suffolk Refugee Support Forum
We are a small independent registered charity based in Ipswich. We provide practical help to refugees and asylum seekers in Suffolk.
Many of the people who come to us for help have experienced traumatic and frightening events in their home countries. Many have lost family members and have been imprisoned or tortured because of their political beliefs, religion or ethnic group.
Making the difficult choice to flee from their homeland and embark on the exhausting and dangerous journeys to safety leaves most asylum seekers feeling confused, scared and isolated. Arriving in a strange land where very often they feel unwelcome, have no sense of future, miss family and bearing the physical and mental wounds of mistreatment in their home country, is a frightening and daunting experience.
Suffolk Refugee Support Forum offers a friendly face and an understanding of the issues of fitting into a new culture where systems are baffling and bureaucracy is overwhelming. We know that asylum seekers are often treated with contempt by people who do not understand their circumstances.
In 2007, Suffolk Refugee Support Forum assisted over 600 individuals, from a total of 38 countries around the world. Our task is not easy, however, because as a charity, we struggle to find the funds to help these vulnerable people who would otherwise be lost and alone. We currently employ one full time and two part-time members of staff, and rely heavily on a team of dedicated volunteers to assist us. Finding enough money to continue the organisation is a constant battle and the organisation is always threatened with closure.
We run a drop-in Advice and Advocacy Service at our Ipswich office for anyone to receive free advice and support on a broad range of subjects from housing and employment to how to make friends and learn English.
We provide an International Women's Group for women to meet, make new friends and learn skills to help them survive in the UK. The women we meet are isolated and struggling to fit in to a bewildering and alien environment. They really benefit from language lessons and contact with our volunteers.
Our volunteers also run English language sessions to help refugees and asylum seekers to learn to communicate and become independent - an essential skill needed to get on with almost every aspect of rebuilding and participating in a life here in the UK.
One refugee arriving at Suffolk Refugee Support Forum after being wrongly imprisoned in Lebanon said, "Without the Suffolk Refugee Support Forum we would be lost with no-one to help us". Others have expressed a deep gratitude to the charity for helping them to sort out their problems, to find work and become active members of UK society. They describe how the staff and volunteers at the Suffolk Refugee Support Forum helped to give them back their dignity, sense of self-belief and knowledge that people cared about what happened to them.
A refugee from Darfur, Sudan described to our staff how his village was attacked by government militia in the middle of the night and members of his family and village were killed, The rest fled. He lost his cattle which were his livelihood and was separated from his wife and two young children. He was taken prisoner and only escaped execution by escaping and travelling by lorry, ship and finally underneath a lorry to the UK. He arrived in a traumatised state, speaking no English, physically unwell from the journey and having no sense of what would happen to him.
Fours years on and after many problems and moments of deep despair, this man has finally been re-united with his wife and children, attends college to improve his English and is working in a local supermarket. He received help from Suffolk Refugee Support Forum to find a home, enrol for English classes and to apply for work. Most importantly, we also helped him to contact the International Red Cross, who eventually managed to contact his wife and children in a Sudanese refugee camp and arrange for them to be re-united after three years apart. Life is now improving for the family who lost everything. They are grateful to the government and people of the UK for giving them safety.