A drop-in for refugees

English teacher Deborah Koder runs a drop-in centre at New North London synagogue to offer practical help to asylum seekers.

By Jessica Elgot, November 12, 2010

Why did you choose this cause?
Many are homeless and sleep on friends’ floors, night buses or in parks. Their plight has particular resonance with the Jewish people. Since March 2006, we have worked with more than 1,000 asylum seekers from 40 countries. We have volunteer lawyers, doctors, therapists, interpreters and childcare professionals.

Why does it make a difference?
Every client receives a supermarket gift card, travel money, clothing, groceries and toiletries. In the words of one client on being granted indefinite leave to remain: “You made me feel human again.”

What’s been the best moment?
The best moments for me are when a client who has just received refugee status comes to the drop-in, glowing with happiness, gives us hugs and kisses and then asks if they can still come to the drop-in and help out as a volunteer.

What’s been the worst moment?
As far as we know, only one of the asylum seekers we knew has been forcibly removed to her home country. She was arrested and beaten on return and is now in hiding.

Last updated: 2:23pm, November 12 2010