We’re thrilled to announce that Dame Harriet Walter, a friend and supporter of West London Welcome since we first opened our doors in 2018, has become a patron of the centre.
In this statement, Dame Harriet explains why she has become our patron:
When I was asked to be a patron of West London Welcome I immediately accepted. If you’re already a supporter of West London Welcome and familiar with the work they do, then I’m probably preaching to the converted when I say that the service they provide is crucial in supporting some of the most marginalised and vulnerable people in our community.
Nobody wants to leave their homes, their loved ones and their homeland behind. People who travel from far-off countries to seek asylum in the UK, encountering much danger and deprivation along the way, and arriving in a totally strange land often with no contacts, no guarantee of shelter, food or income, speaking little if any English, must do so because what they are fleeing from is far, far worse than any of that.
It’s also important to remind ourselves that refugees, asylum seekers and migrants are not all the same. Some are fleeing religious persecution, whilst some have had their cities turned to rubble, some have spent months, even years, in overcrowded camps in some no man’s land and others yet are highly educated professionals who have fled homes not unlike our own. They didn’t cause the famines, the wars, the hostility that ruined their lives back home, they are victims of those circumstances. Likewise, migrants who have lived and worked here in the UK for many years – often on the frontline for the NHS or other public services – can also find themselves forced into destitution or potential deportation, simply because they have built their lives in the UK and want to remain here. The Windrush scandal has shown us that even those who have grown up here can fall victim to the immigration system. To meet those who come to West London Welcome is to see the tricks of fate that land some of us in comfort and ease, and others in destitution.
We lucky ones can do so much to help support and alleviate some of the burdens refugees, asylum seekers and other vulnerable migrants face when trying to make a life here in the UK. This is exactly what West London Welcome does for those needing support in Hammersmith and Fulham and beyond. Refugees, asylum seekers and migrants may be victims of circumstance but they are not victims in their attitude. They are courageous, uncomplaining and willing to learn and adapt to a completely new way of life. To talk to these people is to ask oneself “How would I fare in similar circumstances?” and “How would I expect to be treated?” The honest answers are humbling.
I support and applaud West London Welcome’s work 150%. My biggest wish which I will continue to work towards is that one day such help and acceptance will be provided by the country itself and not fall on the good hearts and hard work of volunteers making the very most of very slim resources.
If there is any way you could help, whether by making a regular donation like I do, making a one-off donation, donating items on the lists that are published on the website, or if you would like to volunteer and meet some of these wonderful people, please do get in touch.
To make a donation to West London Welcome, please visit our Localgiving page here.