Our Mission

At GARAS (Gloucestershire Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers) we offer support to those seeking asylum in Gloucestershire, welcoming them when they arrive, advocating for them in their daily struggles, supporting them if they face being sent back as well as helping them adjust to their long term future if they are recognised as refugees.

Contact Information

Gloucestershire Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers (GARAS)
The Trust Centre
Falkner St
Gloucester
GL1 4SQ

Telephone: 01452 550528
email: info@garas.org.uk
www.garas.org.uk

Director
Adele Owen

Reflections on Teaching

June 18, 2018

A chance meeting in Sainsburys with Carol in 2016 has resulted in me helping at GARAS. I’ve been a teacher all my life with experience in primary, secondary, special schools and university. I was recently widowed and in trying to rebuild my life I wondered if anyone would take on a 76 year old to teach. After Adele confirmed that I was able to join the teaching group at GARAS I realised as I drove home that there were tears running down my face. She’d taken in another refugee.

I have found the experience extraordinary and it has made me vividly aware of my white male privilege. The unaccompanied children that I help teach for two hours a week have undertaken brutal journeys. They are such engagingly ‘normal’ boys as they struggle with the changes that all teenage boys experience and the vulnerabilities those changes bring. On on top of that they have all been forced to travel without their parents to foreign lands, through great dangers, witnessing and experiencing things that have traumatised them but they still have that shuffling uncertainty when confronted with the few girls who have joined the classes.

As a group they have the usual range of abilities from looking to gain entrance to Oxford to struggling with western script but I have experienced from them a dignity that translates into good manners, respect and a sense of fun that is heart warming.

This is a snap-shot of some of the moments that stand out:-

  • Being asked if it was permitted to handle the books at Gloucester Cathedral
  • On the same visit asking if it was permitted to write a prayer for peace
  • Being asked by an Afghan boy ‘Why did the Americans bomb us?’
  • Being shown, on a map of Africa, the route taken across the Sahara desert to Libya and then to Italy.
  • On asking why a boy had left the teaching group to lie down on a sofa ‘I have a headache’; he then showed me the raised scars in his skull, received, I was told later, from a police beating
  • Being sent a get-well card by the boys
  • Being greeted with a big smile and a hug by a boy who was attending the same school as a granddaughter
  • Seeing the pride in another boy who was at college and looking forward o being trained as a plumber-
  • Talking to another who was so angry when I first met him but who had gone to college and was about to join the police.
  • Being taught the difference between our numerals and eastern Arabic ones-our 1000 looks like 1555.

They are deserving of our admiration and respect. They have travelled with strangers, they live with strangers, they meet strangers from their own countries, they meet strangers from countries they have never heard of. I know what they have to go through to be able to live without fear of deportation is absolutely deplorable. The image of my grandchildren having to face tribunals and inquisitions in a foreign language alone leaves me angry and ashamed that this process takes place in my name.

It is a privilege for me to have been a very small part of these children’s lives. They are truly extraordinary and should be welcomed with compassion by every institution that encounters them.

Ian Parker Dodd