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Palace for Life Trainee organises Christmas party for Brigstock House refugees

By aspiring local journalist, Andre Darby

For the past month local 20-year-old and Palace for Life Foundation trainee Jamil Smith has been organizing a Christmas party for the Brigstock House Refugee Centre set to take place on Saturday 14th December at the Salvation Army in Thornton Heath.

Jamil, who is part of Palace for Life’s Traineeship (Work Ready and Prepared) and Talent Match programmes, has won a London Youth microgrant to help make his community action project a reality. Over the summer, Jamil and the other young people involved with Opportunities for Success helped fix and restore the previously out of use garden at the Salvation Army in Thornton Heath where the upcoming festivities are being held. Their great work caught the attention of London Youth, which resulted in Jamil’s project being chosen.

When asked what influenced his decision to help the Brigstock Refugee Centre, Jamil explained: “Christmas time can be very difficult for new immigrants and refugees, in most cases they tend to be far away from their families and friends which can be really tough for them at this time of year.

“In some cases, they’re coming from situations where they weren’t privileged enough to have or even enjoy a Christmas tradition. We strive to make them feel more included and respected in our local community and share the same Christmas’ we experience.”

Jamil has been supported by Palace for Life Foundation’s Pat Gordon, who has aided him throughout the party’s planning stages.

Pat said: “Being involved with this project has been greatly beneficial to Jamil and given him a greater understanding of the groups in our wider community who he can help and support.

“I’m very proud of him to have taken this on board, he’s doing all of the running around, the budgeting, the networking, everything. Hopefully this is helping him to grow from a young person to an adult.”

Alongside Palace for Life staff, local artist and designer Vân Dang, a member of the Thornton Heath Community Action Team (known for her acclaimed peacock mural on the wall of the Shree Sakthy Ghanapathy Hindu Temple) has been a pivotal support.

Vân has worked with the residents of Brigstock House closely, helping the young people at the refugee centre make and decorate Christmas cards and posters, making sure everyone is included and comfortable in the dining area, or being an ever-present helping hand to the staff who work in the refugee centre, her occupancy is felt all throughout Brigstock House. Currently Vân has enlisted the help of many local volunteers from the Thornton Heath Community Action Team to help with the Christmas celebration. In addition to that many of the groups who are affiliated and work closely with the Thornton Heath Community Action Team have been personally invited by Vân to help on the day. She alongside Jamil, Pat, Palace for Life and the Salvation Army are committed to making an important long-lasting difference for refugees in the Croydon Area.

All parties involved are now handling and planning everything required for the gathering, including budgeting for the event and carefully allocating funds to make this celebration worthwhile. Even going as far as to consider making playlists for the residents to embrace their different cultures and customs.

Donations such as food and ‘secret santa’ presents for the attendees would be greatly appreciated and can be delivered to The Salvation Army at 66 High Street, Thornton Heath, CR7 8LF

13 June 2023


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