Phone calls reveal the struggles of asylum seekers and refugees

After 20 years as a volunteer assisting asylum seekers and refugees in their varied but always difficult circumstances, it is tempting to insulate oneself from overtly displaying or even feeling compassion. The constant negativity and questioning from the media, politicians and wider public about ‘why did they come?’, ‘it’s safe and they can go back now’, ‘there’s not enough housing/work/non-government aid to go around’ and more is wearing, as is the constant need to fundraise to ensure we can assist people with the basic living costs. The counterbalance is personal contact with the asylum seekers and refugees themselves.

During the cold month of May, the Rapid Response Circle (Circle 110), with support from other Circles delivered money, bedding, warm clothes, essential living expenses and more for 15 individuals and families in crisis.  Five were newly referred by Red Cross, AMES and the Refugee Health Service. Each new referral places an additional strain on our limited finances. Still we cannot turn away from helping people who need housing, food and medical treatment.

Three men we assisted have been in Australia for nine years or more, still on temporary visas or no visas. Mounting and overdue bills, higher rent than they could pay, increased living costs and limited community support connections, brought them to the brink of disaster.  One, whose Medicare Care recently lapsed and cannot be renewed, urgently  needs around $2000 worth of Outpatient Hospital treatment.  Full credit to his Medical Specialist who is endeavouring to  arrange this at no or minimal cost.  We will seek funds from another Agency, if necessary, but this will take time and allow the illness to progress. Their difficulties were revealed through simple phone calls to ask how they were going.

Being able to say “Yes” when asked for help is a privilege and our small Circle of just four members can only do this because of:

  • Your generosity, commitment, and confidence as Circle donors – new and for up to 20 years!
  • The trust and openness of asylum seekers and refugees we work with.

Every Circle has encouraging, if sometimes heart – rending, stories to tell.  All Circles currently need  more money. The Rapid Response Circle has taken on the role of “triage” for all enquiries, guaranteeing a response within 48 hours, or earlier if needed.  Our record this month is under three hours for payment of rental bond with two Rapid Response Circle members co-ordinating signatures for approval of payment, making payment, providing receipt and handing keys to a very happy man.

If you have any capacity to put some money towards this work, it will help significantly with ensuring people have their basic needs met. Seemingly small amounts quickly add up so that quick assistance can be provided.

You can donate online via our secure Donate Now account or see our donation information for other donation options.

If you can’t contribute financially, please talk to your friends and family about  the work Circle of Friends Australia does and refer  people to our website where there is more information, or to the COFA Facebook page.

Thank you  so much for caring enough to read this.  All Circle members are volunteers, so it means a lot.

Trish Dundon

Co-Convenor Rapid Response Circle (Circle 110)