On Tuesday 11th November 2014 Borderlands held its Annual General Meeting which was well attended by invited guests, trustees, volunteers and members alike.
Rev. Richard McKay gave the Chairman’s annual address; Hilary Jones gave the financial report and John Patrick, an asylum seeker, volunteer and member spoke of the day he was invited as part of City of Sanctuary to attend Parliament to raise the awareness of MP’s of the desperate plight of asylum seekers in the UK today.
Please read a summarised version of the Chairs Report below.
Chair’s AGM Report for year 2013/1014
Thank you all for attending this Borderlands Charity AGM. You are part of the family or community of Borderlands, as friends, parishioners, members, volunteers, staff, Trustees or patrons. Each one of you is a unique and special person with a unique contribution to make in drawing people ‘from exclusion to belonging’ and Borderlands values you greatly. At last year’s AGM I spoke of Borderlands having come to the end of Phase One – establishing the Charity with effective policies and a strategy for growth and with a limited public profile. I also spoke of entering a new phase of consolidation which would entail changes. I am delighted to report to you that Borderlands has certainly achieved this consolidation, and its public profile has enlarged significantly. We are increasingly recognised for the particular contribution we make to those seeking safe sanctuary. In a society where the current political rhetoric is constantly scapegoating migrants generally and asylum-seekers in particular this is itself of great importance.
Firstly our fine team volunteers. You are simply indispensable and thank you for all you give so generously. I hope you also receive abundantly from your experience of volunteering with Borderlands. On average 22 volunteers a week support the Tuesday Drop-in who enable us to deliver all our charity’s services. We have provided 4 volunteer training courses in the last 12 months to ensure volunteers have the skills they need. We also had an ‘away day’ at Chew Valley Nature Reserve which was great fun and brilliant for team-building. A very special word of thanks needs to go to John Flannery who as a volunteer has worked so hard over the past year as our CEO. He has made a major contribution to moving the charity forward in this process of consolidation. Thank you also to all our Trustees who guide the work and growth of the Charity.
We have delivered over 5,000 hot meals and 3,000 English language lessons over the last 12 months. We have provided an additional resource for asylum seekers, refugees and people with immigration issues who receive no or very little support. Often I hear it said ‘you are my family!’ Breaking this sense of exclusion, this limbo state where most rights are denied and providing a place of belonging, friendship, support and practical help can make all the difference. We are now supporting women who have been trafficked into the UK through a partnership with the local charity Unseen UK as some of these women are eligible to apply for asylum. Human Trafficking is one of the great evils afflicting migrants and cries out for more awareness and positive action to be rid of this scourge. I foresee Borderlands becoming more involved in this area of work.
We are working in partnership with a number of Foodbanks, parishes and church groups that collect donated food for distribution to people living in food poverty. We plan to develop this area of support by offering this vital service once per month to enable members and other marginalised families and individuals to have the dignity of preparing a meal for themselves and not relying on the availability of a free hot food service provided by a charity. A key part of the Tuesday Drop-in is the meal that is prepared, served and shared. We have raised the funds to complete part 1 of installing a new, purpose-designed stainless steel kitchen in December to improve and expand our hot-meal service, thanks to the generosity of private individuals and charitable trusts who have supported this work. We particularly wish to thank Pret A Manger who not only provide unsold food to the Drop-in on Mondays, they also have donated high quality catering equipment to our new kitchen, and I thank them for this.
We also value our collaborative relationships with Bristol City of Sanctuary, Bristol Refugee Rights, Refugee Action, Unseen UK, Churches Housing Aid Society, the Wild Goose Café and One25 Project. And of course with St Nick’s Parish community whose premises we use and upon whose pioneering work Borderlands has built this Charity.
Campaigning and Awareness Raising
Both Trustees, staff, volunteers and members have all participated in essential campaigning and awareness-raising activities. These range from working with Bristol City of Sanctuary to present the truth of the desperation of sanctuary-seekers, to Member of Parliament talks and talks to schools and parish groups. Some of this activity has been related to fund-raising, but this is never the sole motivation, but rather is part of changing public opinion, shattering the myths about asylum and immigration and educating the younger generations about the plight of those people who are condemned to live for years with fear, uncertainty and poverty on the margins of our society.
A word about staffing
Because John Flannery gave so generously as a voluntary CEO it enabled us to begin a process of exploring staffing needs for the growth of Borderlands Charity. This is an on-going process which has already led to the appointment Hilary Jones as our new CEO. She brings her wide experience and essential gifts as a fund-raiser to this role. I want also to pay great tribute to Bernard Kamtcheu for his great commitment to Borderlands as our Drop-in Co-ordinator. He initiated and led the Drop-in before Borderlands was formed and continues to serve with great energy and dedication.
Last but certainly not least Fundraising
We have raised £77,000 donated in the last 12 months by individuals, grant-making bodies and companies which has enabled us to put Borderlands Charity on a firm foundation with a real future. It has enabled us to begin to plan for the medium to longer future. And it is witness to the fact that Borderlands work is recognised and valued and that there are many in our society who do not go along with the negative and harmful rhetoric about immigration and asylum. We wish sincerely to thank all those who have donated to support our work with impoverished and marginalised people.
To Turn briefly to the future
Having achieved the consolidation of the Charity and its work over the past 12 months, we are in a position to develop further our funding strategy so that we can offer new services, especially in the area of IT skills and other creative skills. We are working towards a partnership approach to opening a Charity Shop in conjunction with another charity, in order to provide Borderlands with a regular and reliable source of independent income. We hope to be in a position to expand the provision of our Destitution Fund. As I mentioned earlier we need to explore ways of working with others to support the victims of trafficking as well as combatting this evil trade in human beings. And the work of campaigning with other organisations for a change of public attitude and government policies remains essential.
Last year I ended by saying that this work will succeed … I am now even more convinced this is so. And I thank all of you for being part of Borderlands Charity, all of you for helping to transform exclusion into belonging for so many, reaching out to the poor and marginalised and challenging the injustice of poverty and our asylum system.
Rev Richard McKay
Chair of Borderlands
11th November 2014