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

Tragedy in the English Channel

Following the tragic events on Wednesday 24 November in the English Channel, we are reminded of the fragility of life for those fleeing their homelands and looking for safety. Please see this link for a well worded statement from Families Together that expresses our mutual reaction.

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*** AFGHANISTAN APPEAL ***

As the situation in Afghanistan has unfolded in recent weeks, GARAS has been overwhelmed with the level of support from the general public across Gloucestershire.  We have received so many kind offers of help and donations, for which we are humbly grateful.

Unfortunately, due to a lack of storage space as well as the restrictions of Covid, we are unable to accept donations of clothing, bedding, cots etc.  If you have any larger furniture in excellent condition, please contact Jennie Watts (admin@garas.org.uk) with photos, and she will respond to let you know if we can make good use of it.

There are 2 ways that GARAS is looking for help in this current crisis:

Firstly, if you are able to make a financial donation, we will ensure that it is used effectively and efficiently.  Having money in the bank enables us to attend to any need with the fastest speed.

Secondly if you, or anyone who you know, has a 3+ bedroom house available to rent, we would be delighted to hear from you.  GARAS receives funding from the Home Office to rent and furnish houses for Afghan families, but until the houses are there we are unable to place families.  Please therefore do ask your friends, families and contacts if they have, or know of any, houses to rent.  GARAS has an excellent housing management programme, which we have been running for several years: for more information please email Jennie Watts (admin@garas.org.uk) who will be pleased to speak with you.

*** UPDATE *** If you would like to purchase a personal shopping trolley for a family, we desperately need several. Please drop these at our centre: The Trust Centre, Falkner Street, Gloucester, GL1 4SQ or contact Jennie Watts (admin@garas.org.uk) for more information.

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Update on partnership working in Cheltenham

GARAS and CWR (Cheltenham Welcomes Refugees) have been amazed by the public’s response to the Afghan situation. It is wonderful and hopeful to see so many people wanting to help.

Whilst Afghan families will be coming to Cheltenham, we don’t yet know who they are or when they will arrive, or what they will need when they get here. It could be anything from clothes and age-appropriate toys, to bikes and school bags.

As mentioned above, we are unable to take donations of clothing and baby items.  Please see the bottom of this webpage for details of other organisations who we work in partnership with, where you can donate these items.  In Gloucester GARAS has agreements with some second hand shops to provide clothing to those in need through agreed vouchers. This provides the individuals the opportunity to purchase what they are short of. We hope to do the same in Cheltenham.

GARAS are doing all the preparatory work locally with the councils and government. Properties have to be prepared to an agreed level and so second hand furniture is required. This can be offered through the normal recycling charities such as Furniture Bank or Emmaus, but items can be offered directly to GARAS. Please email admin@garas.org.uk with a photograph of the item on offer.

Another wonderful way to give is through the gift of supermarket vouchers. Again that provides the families the opportunity to purchase what they actually want or are looking for and increases dignity and choice.

On arrival, a family will want to be in touch with friends and family and this requires internet access.  Once they have a bank account and benefits coming in, they will be able to set up an account.  As a stop-gap solution, mobile data top-ups and mi-fi devices would be a great gift.

Laptops, tablets and smartphones in good condition are also very useful.

Thank you again for your desire to help.

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All They Will Call You

GARAS volunteer, Ian Parker-Dodd, has written a collection of poetry entitled All They Will Call You.  Ian says, “this book was inspired in the time that I spent helping teach unaccompanied migrant children at GARAS for the four years leading up to the pandemic.”  As well as the thought-provoking, and at times provocative, poems, there are additional prose contributions from others connected to GARAS.

The stunning front cover is a Derek Robertson painting, Children of the Clouds, and the book has been thoughtfully and beautifully produced.  Adele Owen, Director of GARAS, says “this is an inspirational book.  As I read some of the poems, I was transported afresh into the world and experience of others.  We are delighted and privileged to have worked alongside Ian over the years, and for this book to be one of the positive results of his work with us.”

All They Will Call You is available to buy from GARAS, at a cost of £10 per copy, with a voluntary donation of £1.50 to cover p&p.  All proceeds will go towards the work of GARAS.  If you would like to purchase a copy, please email admin@garas.org.uk.

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Green Impact Report

GARAS believes in the re-use, re-purposing and re-cycling of goods and services to support vulnerable clients from all over the globe as they regain independence, re-gain dignity, re-gain their lives and move forward.

We have a green commitment policy which includes the following:

  • we are part of the Fareshares food waste redistribution programme. FareShare is the UK’s national network of charitable food redistributors, fighting hunger whilst tackling food waste: https://fareshare.org.uk/
  • we help match items of furniture, bikes, household goods and other items to clients, which reduces the number of items going to landfill, as well as being of huge benefit to our clients
  • our outdoor space even has bug hotels!

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GEM – Going the Extra Mile

GARAS is proud to continue to be working in conjunction with GEM, with our marvellous member of the team, Sarah.  

The GEM Project is an employability and social inclusion programme, helping people in Gloucestershire to overcome challenges to employment and move them closer towards or into work.

It is a unique partnership of nearly 50 community based organisations, managed by Gloucestershire Gateway Trust on behalf of the lead organisation Gloucestershire County Council and is jointly funded by the National Lottery Community Fund and European Social Fund.

Individuals signed up to the GEM Project receive personalised one to one support from a Navigator Developer to help them achieve their career based goal, developing life skills, building confidence and self-esteem, whilst overcoming any barriers which prevented them from finding work previously.

The GEM Project has been operating since September 2016 and was initially due to end in December 2019. However, over the last three years, the project has continued to go from strength to strength, being recognised as an exemplar programme and has been awarded additional funding to run until the end of 2021.

For more information about the GEM Project visit www.glosgem.org

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Covid 19

Given the Covid 19 situation, the GARAS drop-in is currently closed.  But staff are available to help.  If you know the phone number or email for your support worker, please contact them.  If you do not know this, please send a Whatsapp message to 07909 147656.  If your enquiry is general, please contact info@garas.org.uk and thank you to everyone who is continuing to support us at this time. We are very grateful to all the generous incoming donations, such as the financial ones.

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Kinder Transport Anniversary Celebration

Here is a link to a You Tube video of the amazing event held at St Mary de Crypt on the 18th June 2019. This is an opportunity to here the speakers from that occasion and be moved by the various stories told that night.

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Refugee Week

During Refugee Week, we had a lot of positive media coverage. Michael Zorek, whose father came to Gloucester on the Kindertransport in June 1939, was interviewed several times, including on Gloucestershirelive.

Michael was also interviewed on BBC Radio Gloucestershire with Sue Oppenheimer, one of our trustees. Thanks to BBC Radio Gloucestershire, you can listen into their conversation here. Hannah, one of our Advice Workers, was also interviewed on BBC Radio Gloucestershire, her conversation can be heard here.