Visiting the Christmas Markets with friends or family, hanging bright decorations, sending love-filled cards and attending candle-lit carol services... for many of us, this time of year is full of traditions.
In local communities across the UK, the tradition of welcoming and offering hospitality to refugees and other newcomers feels like a much-needed sign of hope, especially in these uncertain times. We see the tradition of welcome extended through providing for basic needs like food and shelter, as well as through simple friendship, education and advocacy work.
For the past 15 years we’ve played our part in this tradition of offering hope and hospitality. Last year we provided safe accommodation for more than 160 people who had become homeless through the asylum process. We also provided tailored one to one support, our monthly Free Shop, a range of well-being activities, and a regular drop-in with a local immigration solicitor.
Zahrah, from Pakistan, stayed with one of our short term hosts, before moving into a shared Boaz house. As she prepared to move on from Boaz, she had this to say about the difference her time with us made to her life:
"Boaz helped me a lot. In my hour of need, when I was on my own and didn't know where to go, Boaz helped me. I stayed with a host for two weeks... they were very kind. Then I moved into a [Boaz] house.
Every type of support I needed, I received. Boaz staff were always available whenever I needed. Boaz has helped me a lot, in every aspect; I didn't feel lonely, and I found good support in Boaz for lots of things."
Muteba, who moved on from Boaz after submitting a fresh claim, also reflected on his time with Boaz:
"Before Boaz, I was homeless. It was a dark period. I felt very ashamed. Being homeless is a big problem. Your mind goes down and makes you feel so insecure.
Boaz is light. Boaz is trust. You can trust people at Boaz. Boaz is the first place that I was open and confident. When I came to Boaz I became accepting of love. It was like family. I could be trusting rather than suspicious or scared."
As we look ahead to what will undoubtedly be another year of change and challenge, we're determined that this tradition of providing hospitality and welcome is one that must carry on.
So this Christmas, will you stand with us to provide safe accommodation and support for people like Zahrah, Muteba, and the many more who we will meet in the weeks, months and maybe years to come?
Thank you for being part of our community of friends and supporters, working together to end destitution among people seeking sanctuary in the UK. We couldn't do this without you.