A week’s work experience with the ALMT …


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During my week of work experience at the ALMT, I was tasked with doing some research into how the ALMT is supporting refugee children. I was completely blind to the difficulties that refugees face, and my eyes have very much been opened over the course of my week here. I was impressed by the range of charities the trust funds, but also by the charities themselves. Their work is incredibly inspiring, and the results are very impressive. 

I had a meeting with the Katherine Lowe Settlement (KLS) on Wednesday. KLS is an organisation focused on refugee support in Wandsworth, London. That meeting was my first proper showcase of the tangible impact that the ALMT has by funding these sort of organisations- this was a real charity, they felt vital to the area, and essential to the Wandsworth community. Over the Easter holidays, KLS had 92 families visit them from the surrounding area for warm meals, and for a place to socialise and build a community.  

Obviously, their focus is on children, so whilst they are helping the adults with learning the language and having a safe place to come and stay, their work with the children is at the core of the organisation. They run homework sessions and youth clubs for refugee children of all ages. Their vocational help really stood out to me; as a 17-year-old myself, I know that this type of support on careers is incredibly useful and can give people newfound direction. It helps to give members of this community a goal to work towards, which can make a massive difference. I also feel that their trips to the Isle of Wight are  an incredibly important element of their work. They give the children access to water sports, which helps many of them conquer a fear of water, as well as expanding their horizons to a world that had never existed to them previously. The opportunities KLS gives the children, as well as the support network they have set up throughout Wandsworth, seems to be invaluable for the community. 

The Alsama Project is another refugee-focused organisation which has just started its second year of funding with the ALMT. Alsama helps to set up secondary school facilities in The Lebanon for Syrian refugees. Their impact – having eradicated illiteracy amongst their students in the first three months, and their psychologist having prevented 7 early marriages – is incredible. Partially due to their funding from the ALMT, the Alsama Project has been able to fund a child psychologist in a second institute in Bourj el Barajneh, and help even more people. They now have 4 schools for Syrian refugees. 

Their extracurricular activities are another particularly impressive aspect of Alsama’s project, having trained up a chess team who have taken part in competitions, and with their cricket club well-installed in the camps. This feels particularly important as it allows an escape from the impossibility of the struggles within the camp. Cricket is one of the few games where the gender divide is minimal. Alsama’s unflinching help for the children within the refugee camps inspired me, and has made me want to support this cause in any way, shape, or form.  

Elsewhere in the world, the ALMT is helping Ukrainian refugee children in Poland by funding summer camps and swimming lessons at Slowianka Leisure Centre in Gorzow. One child was heard saying to a member of the team that today was ‘the best day of his life’. It must be so difficult for children who have been displaced and taken away from everything they know, and so it is great to see projects helping children in this way. 

The day after my meeting with KLS, I went back into London to meet with an organisation based in Lewisham called AFRIL (Action For Refugees In Lewisham) which focuses on helping primary school refugees through a Saturday school called Rainbow Club. Rainbow Club is a free and relaxed environment for refugee children to learn English, Maths and other important skills that may be underdeveloped due to the stress of immigration, the language barrier, and unstable homes. AFRIL feels essential in this way: they provide a safe, stable environment for children to learn in a healthier way than in a school speaking a foreign language. The community that AFRIL has built is quite frankly astounding. In our meeting, they told us that people come from far and wide, even if they have been moved away from Lewisham, just to take part in Rainbow Club as it has such a positive influence on the children. However, the thing that really struck me in the meeting was the urgency of the situation that AFRIL are fighting on the front lines- and that is the difficulty of finding houses for refugees to settle in. Roughly twice a month, AFRIL has families coming in telling them that they have nowhere to stay that night, and the urgency means that the charity will have to find them a roof for the night by any means. There are entire families living in hotels, trapped by a lack of money and their immigration status. With this in mind, it makes AFRIL’s work feel even more important- the stability and reliability of the organisation’s Saturday school is crucial for the families; it gives the parents a break and the children something to look forward to. 

The way that AFRIL helps teenagers is also rather impressive. Many young people who have outgrown the Rainbow Club still look for a way to be included, and so AFRIL allows them to be volunteers. It gives them a fun experience and something great to include on their CV. AFRIL talked about formalising this training for volunteers. It gives young people transferrable skills, and I know as a young person myself, just how useful this type of training can be, and so I can really see the value of something like this.  

The Magpie Project is the final project I wish to talk about, which is a program that helps single parents and the very young children (0-5) that live in temporary accommodation in Newham. Newham is the area with the most people living in temporary housing in London. This project is happening right now, and is funded by the ALMT, whose money is invaluable to help this cause. As with AFRIL and KLS, their provision of a safe, stable place for the children is, sadly, very necessary. In temporary housing, with nothing more than a kettle to cook hot meals, the Magpie Project’s safe space is priceless to parents and children alike- providing an escape for the parents, and an enjoyable area for the children.  ALMT funding is paying for a dance and movement teacher who helps children develop mobility because they can’t move around at home, as well as giving them shoes. 

Throughout my week on work experience, I have learnt an incredible amount. Working with the ALMT, and seeing first-hand the impact that charities such as AFRIL and KLS are having, opened my eyes to something I hadn’t realised was such a large problem. I found it inspiring to see what these projects can do when supported properly, and am grateful for the opportunity to see such important operations at work. The ALMT’s funds have clearly been used well, and it is exciting to see where the charity will help with this issue next.”

Euan Pirt (17)

Post Image courtesy of Katherine Lowe Settlement; Hero Image courtesy of AFRIL