From a small gesture to the beginning of friendship

Last weekend, The Times newspaper featured two Cinnamon Recognised Projects who help local churches to welcome and resettle refugees. Today’s Cinnamon Bite is a snippet from The Times article. The full version can be found HERE and HERE.

Welcome Boxes Website

In many cases, the gesture is the beginning of friendship

The experience of having a baby while being a stranger in a strange land inspired Karina Martin to start helping refugees back in Britain. Her approach is simple. When refugee families arrive in her home city of Derby … she knocks on their door with a “welcome box” of toiletries, sweets, toys and information about the city. In many cases, the gesture is the beginning of a friendship.

“My husband and I moved to Estonia in the mid-90s to do youth work in a church … We were having our first baby, and … instead of being an isolating experience, it turned into one where we felt so loved and welcomed by those we had come to live among. Someone found us a pram, others came to doctors’ appointments and translated for us. When our little boy arrived, people came to cook, clean, and hold the baby. It was then that I realised how difficult that experience was for people when they arrived in the UK.”

[On their return to the UK] Karina and her husband, Adam, began hosting Sunday lunches for up to 50 displaced people. Refugees of many faiths started coming to their church – Community Church Derby, where they made friends.

Another faith-based social enterprise [is] Hope into Action, which encourages church communities to buy houses for refugees to live in. Ed Walker, the founder, says: “We encourage people to share their money with the poor by investing in a house for a small annual return of 2 per cent. I would argue there’s no better return. Many investors group together to buy the house outright and lease it to the charity.”

Ed Walker (R) and team receive a recent award

Ed Walker (R) and team receive a recent award from the Christian Funders’ Forum

After buying the first property four-and-a-half years ago, Walker now has 36 houses in 20 cities all over Britain. Many churches want to get involved.

Once people are granted asylum, they have 28 days to leave the property provided by the Home Office, and find private rented housing. Without a deposit and other credentials, this can be very difficult for them. The church-run homes give the refugees a comfortable environment with a sympathetic community to offer support. “The root cause of most of our tenants’ issues is relational,” he says. “What they need is friendship and love.”

VisitMeantMoreDespite the challenges, there is no shortage of volunteers, Martin says. The work can be rewarding. “I will never forget the job of being with a large Afghan family, watching the pleasure that those few small gifts brought to their children. We soon realised that what was more appreciated was that someone had come to their home and extended the hand of friendship. Our visit meant so much more than the box we carried.”

You can get involved in the work of Welcome Boxes HERE and Hope Into Action HERE. You can apply for a Cinnamon Micro Grant to run any one of our Recognised Projects HERE.

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