30 October, 2023 - By Mehri Madadi

Out and About in London

Introducing our newly-arrived friends from around the world to London’s history and culture is one of the joys of running our community centre. In the last two weeks alone we’ve taken 135 refugee, asylum-seeking people and migrants in our community on 8 different outings around the city.

Usually on Fridays we have a trip. It could be a tour somewhere in London, a day out at Kew Gardens, or a show at the Royal Albert Hall. Many organisations support us with this – Blue Badge tour guides have been great, for example, or the RavensWall climbing centre in Ravenscourt Park. Sometimes we just walk through a local area taking notice of what we encounter, like parks and libraries.

It can be a challenge at first to bring our community members along on trips. Even if someone puts their name down, they may not feel confident about coming at first. People seeking asylum face high levels of isolation, uncertainty, and stress. Our members can get used to life in a tiny hotel room with little to look forward to. Living on £9.10 a week from the Home Office, and banned from working, you are limited in what you can do in London. With extremely restricted rights and resources, life can feel extremely narrow.

At West London Welcome we support people’s travel costs. Once people join one of these trips, they really are a breath of fresh air. It becomes possible to laugh and make friends, maybe practice chatting English, have new experiences, and learn new things. Some of the tours have been led by our members who started their journey with very limited English and in a difficult headspace. Now, the same people proudly guide their fellow members through London. New hope is built.

Here’s some of what we’ve been getting up to recently.

1. Beekeeping in Kent with Bees For Refugees.

15 of our community members donned protective suits for an engaging and exciting hands-on beekeeping workshop. We love the environment justice work of Bees for Refugees and support their efforts to save the native British black bee.

2. A group play-date at IKEA for 30 local asylum-seeking kids.

We got drawing with our local families!

3. Watching the film Jurassic Park, 30 years on, with a live orchestra, at the Royal Albert Hall.

30 adults and kids in our community loved every minute.

4. Getting stuck into an art workshop at Chiswick House with 12 asylum-seeking children in our community at half term.

Led by our wonderful longstanding volunteer Rachel Le Mesurier, a graphic designer, who has been organising community activities for West London Welcome members with Chiswick House for over a year now.

5. A night out seeing Rumble In the Jungle, an immersive theatre production about Muhammad Ali.

Our community members said the experience of being in a London warehouse which is turned into the capital of Zaire, as the Democratic Republic of Congo was then known, was unforgettable.

6. A tour of Parliament by our local MP, Andy Slaughter, for 16 of our community members.

Our members loved exploring the House of Commons in all its grandeur.

7. Drumming Roots Festival

Our drumming group loved being part of Senegalese musician Dembis Thioung’s Rising Roots workshop earlier this month, a West African drum, chant, dance and storytelling event as part of the Legacy101 festival organised by Village101, a movement celebrating Black excellence, decolonial education and healing. Dembis Thioung and his family are longtime friends of our centre and Dembis runs our drumming group.

8. Nourish Hub lunches and dinners

We’ve been taking our community members to the Nourish Hub on the Hammersmith/Kensington border, where we’ve been dine cost-free alongside other locals on their ‘donate as you dine’ scheme. It’s a great way of meeting new neighbours and eating delicious vegan and vegetarian food.

Mehri Madadi is West London Welcome’s Community Outreach and Operations Manager.