OUR REFUGEE FAMILY – HOW IT ALL STARTED
– by PASTOR TONY READ
Our work with the refugees grew from small beginnings in 2002 when we received a letter from an asylum seeker held in detention in Victoria Prison asking us to visit him. What we discovered astonished us. There were a group of about 15 or so asylum seekers who had been detained and they were meeting together regularly to help and support each other. We started to visit them on a regular basis, and when they were eventually released they asked if they could come to The Vine Centre. As we began to understand their situation and needs we realized that we needed to support them practically and spiritually. We began by providing meals and a small amount of financial assistance. We also tried to help out with accommodation as many had nowhere to live. We eventually provided help groups for them in their own native languages, and so the whole refugee family grew. The Nepalese community group has now grown from a small group into a self sustaining fellowship of nearly 100 people who are no longer refugees but have started a church in Vermont, USA, where they eventually resettled.
The asylum seekers and refugees have been a great encouragement to us as we have heard their stories and tried to share their struggles. We enjoy having them as part of our family and they help us to see beyond our own limitations. As we have stretched our own resources to help meet their needs, The Vine Community has seen this is one way we can help make a positive contribution to the wider community of Hong Kong.
In this case our common language of English, which would normally tend to isolate us from the rest of Hong Kong society, has been an advantage for us – being the common language of refugees and asylum seekers as well. Our goal has always been to try to help them not just survive their difficult times in Hong Kong but to thrive and grow stronger through their experiences so that they may enter their new life in a new country with a desire to contribute to society and help others.