16 June, 2023 - By Leyla Williams

Friendraiser 2023: A community of donors

In April over fifty guests gathered at West London Welcome together with our staff, volunteers and community members for our ‘Friendraiser’ dinner with our Patrons Dame Harriet Walter and Phyllida Lloyd, where they heard from our members, staff and about the Welcome Circle.

True to the spirit of our community, we built the evening around our members. Each table was hosted by a refugee, asylum-seeking or migrant member of our community, along with staff and Trustees. Depending on which member was hosting, we assigned a language for each table to learn for the night – Farsi, Spanish, Turkish and more. We wanted our guests to slip into the shoes of our members and hear from them, understanding as the night progressed how it might have felt to have landed on these shores looking for safety and not having English as a first language.

Harriet and Phyllida interviewed four of our members about their experiences: Betul, Tom, Aiman and Mounia. We heard about the reasons they left their home countries, their journeys to the UK, and their lives here in West London since they first arrived. From the trauma of leaving behind family to the challenges of building a new life, our guests learnt so much from our interviewees.

You can watch the interviews and speeches made at the Friendraiser on YouTube here.

We were treated to delicious dishes from around the world by our team of fantastic cooks, from Lebanese to Turkish and Ukrainian specialities.

Harriet, Phyllida and our Director Joanne MacInnes made speeches about their work with West London Welcome, the hostile environment facing our members and the tremendous collective work and energy of everyone in our community to welcome them, from caseworkers to volunteers of all kinds – including members who themselves volunteer at our centre.

Andy Auerbach, Welcome Circle member and West London Welcome volunteer, talked about his experience of the Welcome Circle and his own family story. You can watch his speech on YouTube here.

Finally, no West London Welcome event would be complete without the amazing Dembis Thioung, who stunned us all with his West African drumming as usual.

A huge thank you to all our friends, new and old, who came to the Friendraiser, have joined our Welcome Circle, and are giving so generously. Donations made by members of the Welcome Circle go a very long way in a small charity like ours that doesn’t enjoy Government funding. 

For those interested in joining, you can read about the Welcome Circle and how to become involved here.