Such is the demand for assistance ranging from food vouchers, blankets and clothing to help with job applications and visas that there is no risk of business being slow.
Since the service took over the site of the former Mercy House of Welcome opposite St Brigid’s Church, Kilburn, word has spread quickly amongst refugees and asylum seekers struggling to make ends meet during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Coordinator Mary Ireland said when Mercy Works decided to close its House of Welcome she knew it would be a much better community space with its large hall, activity room and breakout spaces.
“Now we are trying to expand into a community centre with a variety of activities for people,” she said.
“It’s so nice to see green and be in a suburban environment.”
The service will now be able to provide group English classes three mornings a week, commencing from October 6, and Mary said the lessons were already booked out.
Mary said there were approximately 200 asylum seekers in the Port Adelaide/Enfield local government area and 97 of them lived in Kilburn and the surrounding area.
“These people are doing it really tough,” she said.
“This place will be somewhere where they can come and feel welcome. I feel really excited about the potential.”
Mary said there was an urgent need for two large tables and eight chairs suitable for students to use during English classes.
As Christmas approaches, the volunteers are thinking of ways to brighten the lives of refugees and asylum seekers, such as giving families gift cards for recreational activities and shopping instead of always receiving second-hand items.
“A lot of people tell us they would love to take their kids shopping but they can’t afford it,” Mary said.
Fr Selva Raj, parish priest of Clearview-Kilburn, said the parish community was happy that Vinnies was taking over the centre and was looking forward to finding ways to connect and work together once they had settled in.
The parish owns the premises and will continue to use the hall and have responsibility for the garden.
Mercy Works decided last year to close the Mercy House of Welcome and is exploring a new community development project for Adelaide.
Mercy Sister Mary Symonds is continuing her legal assistance for asylum seekers under the auspices of the new Vinnies centre.
Anyone wanting to assist should contact Mary on 0448 970 986 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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