It is 12 months since the whole of the country entered the very first lockdown due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was a situation no-one had ever experienced before – and something we hope we will never see again.
In this series of real short stories, we hear from ordinary Wirral people about events that affected them this past year.
This is Cate, a Church and Community Lay Development Worker at St Luke’s Methodist Church in Hoylake, talking about how their community embraced a group of asylum seekers, sent to shelter in Wirral at the height of the pandemic:
“Our church opened its doors in May last year as somewhere where the asylum seekers who had been placed at the Holiday Inn, Hoylake could receive a hot and substantial meal. There had been concerns that what they were being given by way of food, clothing and health support was inadequate.
“That first Friday evening was boiling hot and I was exhausted from lying on the floor measuring out two metres throughout the church with yellow tape, printing off instructions in different languages, completing risk assessments and it would be fair to say we were apprehensive.
“As the men arrived and queued outside in the heat everything felt awkward - then to make matters worse, a big police van arrived. But out of the van came two police officers with armfuls of ice lollies for us all and in that moment everything changed and a story of how a community came together to support the asylum seekers began.
“I initially thought we might be open for the odd evening, but it was a full nine months before the asylum seekers moved on and the hotel closed at the end of February 2021. The early days saw community groups come together providing over 2,700 meals over 60 consecutive days.”
After a successful lobbying campaign, the hotel provided a chef and the community were able to step back from providing evening meals, but the support being provided continued.
“The following months saw St Luke’s open so that the men could make lunch, play pool and snooker, attend English classes and undertake other activities that were organised by A Heart for Refugees and Wirral Change.
“The men gave an awful lot back to the community too. They planted trees, painted a sports hall, litter picked, played football with local young people and showed us different cultures and perspectives with a joy and optimism that inspired us all - we will miss them.
“There is absolutely no way that we at St Luke’s could have done this alone. With the arrival of the asylum seekers came the most incredible provision from A Heart for Refugees, Wirral Change and Hope for the Hungry, local churches such as Hope Church and St Hildeburgh’s Church, supermarkets Sainsbury’s and Morrison’s, Wirral Council, our local community police team, community groups and inspired individuals.
“Working with so many new people and having constant offers of help from the community has been inspiring, humbling and a very real joy to welcome so many new people to St Luke’s.
“It hasn’t all been easy. Hearing about the lives these men left behind and their journeys to get here can be harrowing and experiencing their fear and vulnerability is challenging and it was really hard work. However, this paled into insignificance when you realise you are part of a community response that was just staggering in size, generosity and love. The community of Hoylake should feel so very proud.”
The group were also featured on Granada reports, which you can view below.
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