Refugee Action York (RAY) was founded in 2002 and is a small charity that supports refugees in a number of very practical ways: a weekly drop-in that offers English language classes for adults and children; craft activities for children; an information and support service and talks from community services such as health, police and domestic violence support. RAY also runs a weekly youth group and a mid-week coffee morning.
These services are run by our five part-time staff supported by a team of volunteers who come to help run the activities, act as receptionists, assist with fundraising etc. RAY also provides a hardship fund to support destitute service users and the need for this has grown over the past year. We also provide individual support to some families where this is needed, as well as homework support to children and young adults.
In the past year, we have seen a continued expansion both in the numbers of people attending (currently 40 each week) and the countries of origin (now 8 countries including Turkey, Rwanda, Syria, Iraq, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Bangladesh and Tunisia). Our Information and Support service has experienced more requests for support and these requests often involve complex legal and status issues.
We have worked as part of a team led by the City of York Council to prepare for and welcome refugees from Syria under the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme. We are very fortunate to work closely with other organisations in York including the City of York Council, the City of Sanctuary, York Racial Equality Network, Amnesty, the University’s Centre for Applied Human Rights, the York Mosque, York Minster, York Says Refugees Welcome Here and many churches and other faith groups, to name but a few.
RAY is totally dependent on fundraising. We have been awarded grants from some large funders (eg Lottery, Lloyds Bank Foundation), which is usually for specific purposes. Local fundraising is invaluable, and over the past 12 months there have been many events taking place with the aim of raising money for us, such as music gigs, collections, cake making, marathon running. As a small charity these donations have helped our sustainability, and allow us to provide a service which is flexible and meets the individual needs of our service users.
RAY has a number of links to the University. One of the founders is Dr Simon Parker from the Department of Politics, while two of the charity’s trustees, Sally Bourton and Dave Burgess, are university alumni. A number of students also work as volunteers with RAY and we have recently developed a partnership with Constantine College. Additionally, last year the University’s fashion, culture and arts publication HARD Magazine organised the Northern Youth Fashion Show at Central Hall, in which Vogue Editor Anna Wintour was a guest speaker. The event raised over £10,000 for RAY.