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

Everyone deserves a friend

July 13, 2018

A privilege of my role is going into schools to speak about refugees and the work we do. With children you never know what will come up.

Today I went to a lovely school in Cheltenham and received support from both Gardners Lane Primary and Oakwood Primary School. The children had had a non-uniform day and also baked cakes.

They had also designed poster during Refugee Week and I was asked to give out the prizes to the winners in each year group.

The posters are lovely and very heart warming. The youngest winner had written I welcome refugees…. because everyone deserves a friend!

The oldest: we should always welcome everyone. So they can be safe from the war. I think everyone can live where they want to. Somewhere safe.

What can I say? beautifully and simply summed up.

On my return to the office I sat with someone as we cried because his family is not living somewhere safe, because they cannot get out and because they very desperately need a friend to help make this possible.

(if I can work out the technology I shall share the posters!)

Build bridges, tear down walls

January 27, 2017

In November 1989 I watched, with joy, as people pulled together to bring down the Berlin Wall that divided East and West Germany. The world’s reaction was of satisfaction that things could be changed and the process of reunification began. It wasn’t straight forward, but together Germany worked to make it work.

In 1993 the Bridge in Mostar was destroyed by the Bosnian Croatian army as a way to divide the people, emblematic of creating division and stopping the interaction that had been happening for hundreds of years. So significant was the bridge it was rebuilt in July 2004.

And yet here we are listening to a world leader committing to build huge walls and to insinuate differences in very real and frightening ways.

In the early 1930’s, lists were published in German cities of shops and businesses run by Jews ordering people not to do business with them. Lists of crimes committed by immigrants; anti-Muslim rhetoric; reintroduce torture; the possibility of a register of Muslims; reducing women’s rights; removing LGBT rights… So how do we react? What if the citizens of Germany had refused to change their shopping habits and continued to support the Jewish community in that way? What if everyone had taken to wearing Stars?

So what are we do? We always have to start right in our homes and communities. We have to maintain relationships and rebuild where necessary. And we have to recognise in each other that which unites us rather than what divides. Talk to each other, eat together, laugh and cry together. One thing I have learnt above everything else in my life at GARAS is we have a common humanity of love and care for our families and when we sit down to eat together, we learn so much.

This may appear to be a series of random thoughts, if so I’m sorry. But maybe as we watch and listen to the unfolding news and become depressed about it we have to take positive, caring action to help make things better and to do our bit to keep the world as safe as possible.
Adele

Book Review: A Beginner’s Guide to Acting English

December 1, 2016

If you’re looking for a Christmas present for someone or simply after some light reading, may I point you in the direction of Shappi Khorsandi’s touching childhood memoirs, A Beginner’s Guide to Acting English?  It’s not a new release (first published in 2009) but remains as relevant and insightful today as before.

Born in Tehran and moving to the UK when she was in pre-school, Shappi and her family ended up in the asylum system here.  A true story from the well known stand up comic, it is moving and poignant.  You get to see life in the UK as an immigrant through a child’s eyes.

It’s easy to read, yet Khorsandi doesn’t shy away from brutalities experienced by Iranians living under heavy religious rule.  Family love, political conflict, growing up bi-culturally.  Humorous and moving, this excellent book has it all.

Hannah

You, Me and the Distance Between Us

October 28, 2016

Last night I had the privilege of watching again “You, Me and The Distance Between Us,” a production that was devised and performed by the very talented Ellen Muriel.  Ellen had spent some time in the past year volunteering in a number of places linked with the asylum journey: Lesbos, Calais and the Greek/Macedonian border.

An astute observer of people, she has used her Drama training to put together a very powerful and moving portrayal of the stories she heard; the volunteers she worked with; and the refugees she met.  It is not in any way a saccharin-coated portrayal.  She can be piercingly self critical, she questions motivations and she challenges preconceptions.  But underneath she tells the story of very real people, trying to make very real decisions and journeys and trying to be human in a world that is progressively ignoring them. She uses the medium of storytelling, singing, puppetry and silhouettes as ways to recount these various observations.  So much resonated with our work at GARAS and made me reflect again on our interaction with our clients and with each other and our motivation for being involved in this area of work.

I can thoroughly recommend it.  If you didn’t manage to catch it yourself, you still have a chance.  Ellen will be performing in Bristol on the 28th and 29th October in Hamilton House.  In the meantime, if you see it advertised in your area I recommend you take the opportunity to see it!

 

Refugee Week – Day Four

June 24, 2016

This post was written yesterday & appeared on some social media channels then…

It’s an interesting day today isn’t it? It all feels a bit tense and I suspect there will be a far higher turn out than we have seen in years.

And it got me thinking about the pros and cons of democracy and the very fact that we have an opportunity to be allowed to make such a monumental decision.  I have worked with clients from countries as diverse as North Korea and Eritrea where  elections may be held, but nothing can change, the ruling party will stay the same.

Or countries such as the DRC or Sierra Leone where there have been competing parties and the very act of campaigning has been dangerous and the outcome has led to violence on the streets.

The causes of the civil war in Syria are complex, but a lack of voice and ability to democratically change things is a significant factor.

So today, whatever we think of the referendum, whatever our concerns about the outcome, whatever we think of the different parties involved in the whole process we have been able to make our own decision, that decision will be counted and, we believe, the truth of the outcome will be told in the numbers.

I am thankful we have this freedom and I hope and pray that we will be able to accept the outcome peacefully even if we are unhappy with it.

-Adele