MANY have fled persecution and some will be spending Christmas alone after losing loved ones in conflicts.
So it was time to give a helping hand to dozens of asylum seekers and refugees yesterday at All Saints Church, in Commercial Road, Portsea.
Duvets, warm clothes, blankets and shoes were given out by volunteers from the British Red Cross.
There were smiles of joy and relief as people – many with young children in their arms – were given coats that will keep them warm this winter.
Hot soup and exotic food from across the world – from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe – was served up to visitors.
Andrea Carey, a project worker for the Red Cross, explained that the service was a lifeline for people who have suffered extremes of poverty in their own countries.
She said: ‘It’s fantastic.
‘It’s essential to spread awareness about the kind of work we do and the needs that asylum seekers and refugees have.
‘The perception from the public is that they have an easy time.
‘The reality is they do not.
‘They have very little money to exist on.
‘They can’t afford essential things like warm clothing and decent footwear for our winters. These are people who have fled terrible, traumatic situations and are in need of some basic love and sensitivity.’
The day was organised by Sara Cotton, service co-ordinator at British Red Cross, and members of Haslar Visitors Group.
Cleide Lourenzo, a University of Portsmouth social work student, helped to organise the winter warmer day.
She said: ‘A lot of people who come to us don’t know their rights and the resources they can access.
‘This orientation project gives them that access.
‘It’s about getting them to integrate into the local community.’
Shaoling Ng, 38, fled China with her two children and was very grateful for the support.
She said: ‘They help us with everything.
‘The hospitality, love and care we get here is very good.’
The event is part of the Orientation Project at the British Red Cross.
The charity was recently awarded £500,000 in lottery funding to help asylum seekers and refugees.
An asylum seeker is someone who has asked the British government for protection under international law and has not had a decision on their case yet.
A refugee is someone who has proven that they need protection under international law and the government has granted them refugee status in Britain.
The church has drop-in sessions for asylum seekers and refugees every Monday and Thursday, and there is information and advice to help integrate people into the community.
For more information call (023) 9229 6463.