St Ann’s is one of Nottingham’s most multicultural places, and home to many migrant communities. To highlight the varied reasons for which people leave their homes, travel, and settle in new communities, local resident Rosey Thomas Palmer is camping out in a tent all this week to raise money for Tearfund. Here she explains why…
Refugee is a word that polarises opinions. I think of parallel cases as I begin a particular challenge to understand its effects by occupying a tent for one week without comfort or options.
The tent is safely contained in my church’s foyer at St Ann with Emmanuel’s Church. The venture is regulated by my local vicar, the Reverend Maureen Collins. It is overseen by Southwell Diocesan Board but I am a refugee.
I am separated from the familiarity of my home, the companionship of my cats, the comfort of unlimited teas and coffees and the reliable structure of my working shifts. My decision to do this is informed by nightly BBC world news and born in a daily session of prayer and Bible reading.
My heart was in my mouth when I spoke of my resolve to spend one week isolated from my chosen surroundings to suffer a small measure of the displacement taken on by refugees fleeing from persecution, climate disaster and economic devastation in their countries of birth. Rev Maureen grasped the notion and ran with it, enlisting help from Tearfund, our designated charity for St Ann with Emmanuel’s.
So I sit here. I pray. I sing. I share space with regular users of our building. My only unaffected activities for the week are those conducted in church. A community friend has pledged to “Rent my Tent” almost every day at 4pm so I can exercise by walking in the Chase. I retreat to the vicarage floor at night for safety. Friends in the congregation plan to provide food.
The power of these contributions teaches me how much the migrants to our shores trust in those left behind to stand in their gap and to remain united. They wait till the first perilous journey is concluded and permission processes in the receiving country are completed. At this uncertain time a return is expected, in the shape of remittances and visas to join the traveller in different circumstances.
This is the experience of the esteemed migrants from the Caribbean who came “to help rebuild the Motherland”. It is the experience of Indonesian farmers who are prompted by recruitment agencies to come to assist with our harvests. Most recently, it is the experience of those fleeing from forest fires or sudden floods across a world suffering from climate change. Now and for the future, it typifies the determination of care workers from Africa and other continents who respond to the needs of our Health and Social Care sector. Immediately and dramatically, it is the reality of refugees and their families of origin.
The build up to my Tent In Week has shown the love people have for each other in our bright and challenging community of St Ann’s. I am eager to see how empowered we all will be by increasing our understanding of each other. Without a doubt, we are surrounded by “them and us” narratives and sensational reporting about pioneers who travel illegally. For regular users, the life of St Ann’s Robin Hood Chase demonstrates we are all one and diversity is our strength. The words “refugee”, “migrant”, “traveller” and “pioneer” come together in this story because people’s movements have a long and varied history. May the current phase become a time of joy and pride not one of anger and shame.
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