To celebrate Refugee Week (14-20 June), Lewisham Borough of Sanctuary joined Lewisham Refugee and Migrant Network (LRMN) at the festivities at Beckenham Place Mansion in South London. We were two of many organisations that had gathered at the community centre to celebrate sanctuary seekers living in our communities.
The event, spearheaded by Create without Borders, had organisations including Refugee Cafe and Women for Refugee Women set up stalls where visitors could purchase everything from pumpkin kabbeh to stylish tote bags to support their vital work.
LRMN’s stall, manned by a team of friendly staff and volunteers, greeted visitors and encouraged them to sign our pledge to make Lewisham a borough of Sanctuary. This important campaign seeks to make Lewisham the first borough of Sanctuary in London – a place that is welcoming, safe, and which promotes integration and a sense of belonging for refugee, asylum seeker and migrant communities. Many visitors enthusiastically signed the pledge and a few took proud, smiling photos of themselves with a sign reading “I have pledged.”
The community centre also hosted interactive workshops and performances, which offered visitors opportunities to learn, engage with others, and enjoy themselves – which LRMN happily took part in. Together with Lewisham Migration Forum, LRMN led a workshop on Becoming a Borough of Sanctuary.
Later in the day, members of LRMN’s singing group sang a medley of inspiring and beautiful songs with members of the audience dancing to the tunes.
The event, although only an hour-long event, created a sense of community, care, and belonging among participants, all of whom had various journeys that led them to live in London. We hope that the spirit of community-building and mutual care that inspired this event will continue formally and informally in the weeks and months to come, bringing individuals, organisations and communities together to make Lewisham, London, and beyond a place that is welcoming to all.