The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service is the highest award given to volunteer groups across the UK and we at Migrants Organise are delighted and honoured to receive this recognition for the hard work hundreds of volunteers contribute to make Britain more welcoming and inclusive for migrants and refugees.
We are very grateful to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea for nominating us and for the support they provide for our day to day work in our neighbourhood in North Kensington.
We are also grateful to our local community: residents, community and voluntary organisations, in particular Kensington and Chelsea Foundation, pupils, teachers and parents form the Southbank International School and International School of London, as well as St John’s CofE in Nothing Hill, Christ the Saviour CofE in Ealing, The Holly Apostles Catholic Church in Pimlico, Al Manaar Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre in North Kensington and West London Synagogue, and many others who supported our nomination for the Queen’s Award. They have been active supporters of our work, many of them as Refugee Welcome volunteers. They share this award with us.
Our volunteer Thiru and Trustee Christine Yates accepted the Award for Migrants Organise at Buckingham Palace on May 28th.
Here are some of the testimonies from our members, community leaders and volunteers about our work that have been considered in nomination and assessment for the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service:
Danmore (refugee from Zimbabwe, health activist):
“I encountered Migrants Organise through migrants and refugees working to improve better health services, some of us extremely vulnerable individuals with chronic illnesses. Migrants Organise provided me with training and tools for community organising and I went on to establish satellite health groups in various areas of London. Migrants Organise showed me by example how migrants working together can bring about positive change in our communities.”
Z.A. (refugee from Syria)
“I came to London to seek asylum in January 2015 as a refugee from Syria and stayed with my sister and her family in their one-bedroom flat. I met someone from another charity who referred me to Migrants Organise, saying they were specialists in helping asylum seekers and refugees. That person held Migrants Organise in very high regard so I thought I’d go and see if they could help me out.
Migrants Organise linked me up with a solicitor and invited me to attend their English class. When my own sister asked me to leave her flat, Migrants Organise found a host family for me and made sure I did not sleep in the streets. In October 2015, the very next day after staying in my new accommodation, Francesca of Migrants Organise phoned me to say I had received my refugee status. My own family abandoned me, Migrants Organise never gave up on me. They are like my second family.”
Didier Ibwilakwingi-Ekom, Coordinator of Congo Great Lakes Initiative
“Congo Great Lakes Initiative was set up with the full support of Migrants Organise. Since day one, we have gone places, organising amazing exhibitions, with incredible and successful projects that have seen international leading institutions such as Cambridge University, University College London and Royal Geographical Society working in collaboration with us. Through Leadership Academy training sessions, we have been able to organise our community in a way that allow them to make their voice heard. This support has been unique and we are very grateful for all the support from Zrinka Bralo and her team.”
Thiru (refugee from Sri Lanka and volunteer)
“I had to leave Sri Lanka and seek safety in the United Kingdom. When I arrived, I was lost, overwhelmed by the complex asylum system. Migrants Organise was like a lighthouse that sent me rays of hope. I started out as a mentee in the Mentoring Programme. Migrants Organise paired me up with a Mentor–a volunteer from the community who spent several hours in the week with me, helping me improve my conversational English, helping me fill in forms, helping me find housing and reassuring me that I was not completely alone.
I am now a student, working part-time and volunteering at Migrants Organise. They were with me all the way in my struggle to gain refugee status. I was in a very difficult situation once, I would also like to help other people in the same situation move forward and rebuild their lives.”
Bashar (asylum seeker from Syria and volunteer)
“I came to Migrants Organise first time in December 2013 seeking legal advice about my immigration situation. At that time I was giving up on everything, lost everything back home in Syria because of the war, a single father with two little daughters, one of them nearly dying in hospital and thousands of miles away from anyone I know. I left that day thinking that I might not hear from them again but after a few days I received a call from Francesca asking about me, how I am and how my daughters are, she invited me to join the activities in Migrants Organise and to contact them if I need any sort of help and that was the start. I joined as a lonely Syrian refugee who needed help and had given up but I ended up as a volunteer who help others not to give up. After 3 years in the UK I am still fighting to get my refugees status but I am not scared any more, I have a family here.”
Zrinka Bralo, CEO of Migrants Organise, herself a refugee from Bosnia said:
“We are very grateful that the work of so many good people, who do good work quietly, has been recognised by this highest award from the Queen. Last year we had nearly 240 volunteers who contributed to our work. Without them we would not be able to support vulnerable people who they mentor, we would not be able to provide English or Sewing classes, we would not be able to organise Refugee Welcome in West London boroughs, we would not be able to provide legal advice and representation or even run our office. More importantly, volunteers create an atmosphere and culture of welcome for people who are very isolated and often struggle to find their place in the new country.
We are very grateful to all our funders and people who make donations, but through their contribution in kind, but we are especially grateful to all our volunteers who double our impact, which is impossible to measure in monetary terms, but if we tried – if we were to calculate hours that they contribute at the Living Wage rate, they would double our income too.”