Helping the Newham Needy
During Ramadan, some of the mosques in Newham set up a hot food service to share food with friends and neighbours. What started off with a handful of people, quickly turned to dozens and by the end there were more than 800 people being served a meal daily by the mosques.
The organisers spoke to the people collecting the food and found them to be of a similar profile: international students stranded in the UK. Many of them told stories of utter destitution and how they were reliant on the hot food service as their only meal of the day.
Many of them had only recently arrived in the UK and were living in crowded accommodation with 3, 4, 5 other people in a room. Their families had spent their life savings sending them to study in the renowned British universities but they had landed into the depths of a global crisis. Where it would have taken them a few weeks to settle down, make friends and find work to sustain them, the lockdown meant they were stuck with no money and with no where to turn to. Students were in deep emotional distress with many suicidal and thinking there was no way out.
Students from all over the country were seeking refuge in Newham as they had a support network here and were completely isolated in far away parts of the country like Glasgow, Teeside, Preston, Cardiff, Portsmouth and others.
This kickstarted a small grants program and what was intended to give 50 or so people some money to get them essentials, turned into 400+ applicants for a very limited amount of money.
Newham Community Project (registered charity 1128596) took control and held a meeting with the volunteers to discuss strategy. It was quickly agreed that small grants would not really change the situation that the students faced. Other agencies needed to be contacted to resolve the issues of the lack of income, universities chasing for fees, threatening landlords and the emotional trauma that these young people were having to go through.
Since Friday 29th May, more than 20 students have been placed into jobs with over 100 interviews taking place. Landlords have been contacted and advised that they need to follow the law and not threaten their tenants. And working closely with Newham Council's Public Health team, many universities have been contacted and students put in touch to get the appropriate help and support.
However we are only at the initial stages. Out of 30+ universities that are on the list, only 4 or 5 have responded to requests for help. There are still hundreds of students who are unable to pay their landlords rent or the universities their fees.
There are some universities who are writing letters threatening to cancel students enrolment and in effect their visa, leaving students faced with the prospect of being deported and facing huge debts when they return. Through no fault of their own and as a result of broken policies and the extension of the "hostile environment" and "no recourse to public funds."
We need to lobby the universities to offer payment holidays of 6 months so the students can get properly settled and get into work. We need support to find and secure jobs for these students. We need help to protect these students against rogue landlords.
Thank you for your support.
You can donate online via our GoFundMe page or alternatively you can make a bank transfer:
Bank Account details:
Account name: Newham Community Project
Account number: 91658824, sort code: 40-02-33
Other ways to help:
Whilst the donations have been very helpful in providing temporary relief to the students. There are other ways in which you can help from befriending, contacting universities, providing a job, lobbying MPs and organisations, shopping, food donations to simply spreading the word! If you would like to help please fill out this form and one of our team will get in contact with you.