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Harper church refugees

Harper Church: Caring for Refugees in the Pandemic

Ruth Leigh Ruth Leigh
2 min

Harper Church sits in the city centre overlooking the Clyde. It’s just five minutes from the Home Office and around 4,000 asylum seekers and refugees are placed within a mile of the church for their initial accommodation each year. In the past five years, the church has nearly doubled in size. The congregation used to be entirely Scottish. Now there are members from Iran and all over Africa. Harper’s Cross-Cultural Worker is involved in discipleship and pastoral care for asylum seekers and refugees.

The church applied for and was granted £20,000 from Stewardship’s Rapid Response Fund. They used the money in three distinct ways, as their Cross-Cultural Worker explains.

“Most asylum seekers arrive here with just the clothes they stand up in. With all the shops shut, they were struggling to buy new clothes. We made a connection with our pastor’s neighbour, the owner of a clothing factory. We ran a day where everyone was invited along for snacks, some socially distanced chat and support and to collect their clothes, paid for by part of the RRF. It wasn’t just about meeting their physical needs, but about connecting with them and showing that we care.”

Once Scotland relaxed their lockdown in the summer and shops began to re-open, the church began to issue clothing vouchers to people who needed them, again using the RRF money. They also provided food packs for around twenty families. Finally, they bought thirty tablets. “We realised that when lock down hit, everything went online and lots of refugees and asylum seekers have phones that won’t support the apps they need. We also supply them with data packs as the £37 per week they get doesn’t cover much. Over eight weeks, we supplied 118 food packs to 37 households, providing 1981 meals. We supplied 44 clothing packs and vouchers, supported 83 people with data packs and loaned tablets to a total of 28.”

The church is now in regular contact with a Ukrainian family. “They had to leave their home very suddenly as their whole life changed in about twenty minutes. They had absolutely nothing. They were feeling incredibly lonely and isolated, trying to keep themselves fed and watered on the money they’d been given. The wife came to our clothing event and we chatted. We were able to give them nappies, clothes and formula. They all come to church now, although the husband had been very antagonistic about Christianity. Without the Rapid Response Fund, none of this would have happened. We’re so thankful for the support from Stewardship. It’s given us the ability to reach out and help so many more people in our community.”