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17 June 2004
Welcoming women from all over the world
jill ellis
Jill Ellis at the Women's Welcome Project

As part of our series on refugees, Jill Ellis who works at the Women's Welcome Project in the city tells her story.

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The only publicly available data on the asylum seeking population relates to those asylum seekers supported by the National Asylum Support Service [NASS].

Statistics show that at the end of March 2004, the number of asylum seekers in receipt of subsistence only support from NASS in Leicester was 430. At the same time 970 asylum seekers were being supported in NASS accommodation in Leicester. This suggests that the total number of NASS supported asylum seekers in Leicester is 1,400.

NASS figures from the end of January 2003 show that asylum seekers from 63 different countries of origin were being housed in NASS accommodation in Leicester.

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What the Project does
"We welcome refugee and asylum seeker ladies and theire children. And we help where we can. It's a befriending place really where we talk to the ladies, play with the children, admire the beautiful babies.

"And we ask them what they would like. If there's anything that we've got that we can give to them, and that are toiletries, shampoo, bubble bath, those sorts of things, nappies. Occasionally we have food that's been donated from somewhere else. And then they've got two cupboards of clothes to look through. One cupboard of children's clothes and one cuboard of ladies clothes."

Learning, relaxing and getting out
"At the moment there are projects going on, so that there's a lady that comes in to cook with them. And today I think they are making open french bread pizzas with different toppings. And a lady comes from one of the PCT's and takes three or four ladies for four weeks and they cook cheap things that they can do at home cheaply.

"Upstairs there's a lady comes in and teaches yoga and there's a few mums up there doing yoga. And while all this is going on there's a creche for the children. And there are two creche workers who come in to take care of the children so that the children can play together while their mums can do these things.

"The other mums who don't want to do these things sit in the room and have a coffee or cup of tea and have a natter with their friends.

"Two weeks ago a lady came and took some of them off to the library to show them how to use the library services. And they really appreciated that.

"And these are things that have started reasonably recently. Whereas before it was just a drop in centre. I think that the people that come here are doing their best to help the ladies to integrate and to help them as much as we can."

How I got involved
"I became involved through a friend who, when I retired, said she thought I would like to do this. So she brought me a long and let me have a look. Then I went and did the course. And I started as a volunteer proper, trained volunteer about February time. And I don't regret coming. I look forward to coming."

How many women come to the centre
Between 10...I think one week we had 26...but normally it's not as many as that. But it's certainly a minimum of ten. Between ten and twenty. And they seem to come each week.

Why women only?
"I think some of these ladies have had bad experiences at the hands of men. And some of them, in their own culture, because they are women from different countries, are more isolated. And if we can just get hold of them with their children, they seem to be the more vulnerable and the more lonely. And if we can help to build up their confidence so they can venture out more... because some of them don't have the privileges that women in England have, basically."

Listen to Jill's interview in full.

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