Skip to main content

“Co-op Foundation’s commitment feels like the highest form of relief”

By November 24, 2022February 7th, 2023Blog post

A blog by Mercy Darlington, Chair of (Refugee Action) RAS Voice Steering Group

At a time of huge challenges for refugees in the UK, I heard the news that Refugee Action would receive an additional unrestricted donation of £250,000 from the Co-op Foundation over the next two years. It was a dream come true. This kind of support is life-changing for thousands of people seeking safety in the UK.

My name is Mercy, and I am the Chair of the Expert by Experience RAS Voice Steering Group (Refugee and Asylum Seekers) at Refugee Action. Our role as a group is to challenge the governance of key policies by providing our ideas and insights as people with lived experience of the UK asylum system to ensure that our voices are part of decision making.

Whilst there is so much hostility towards people seeking safety in the UK, our group wants to focus on the hope of a better future. We are a key part of helping Refugee Action build their next strategy and are pleased that it will focus on the vision of a compassionate and safe refugee protection system. The Co-op Foundation’s support gives us this hope, and the knowledge that it is an unrestricted award over two years allows us to plan for this future.

Refugee Action will use the Co-op Foundation’s grant over the next two years to:

  • Provide direct support and advice to people through our dedicated and compassionate front-line services, and in collaboration with a nationwide network of community organisations.
  • Build public support to campaign for a more sustainable, compassionate and welcoming refugee protection system.
  • Empower refugees and people in the asylum system to influence the issues that matter to them.

I spent three years trapped in the asylum system, unable to work. Living in the asylum system takes a lot from you. It stripped me of my identity and self-worth. But now we have refugee status and I’m putting my family back together.

When myself and others with lived experience, like those in the Steering Group, hear about significant support such as the Co-op Foundation’s commitment, it feels like the highest form of relief. It tells me that people are aligned with us. That people believe in what we are doing at Refugee Action. The support coming from funders means we’re not alone in our quest to provide sanctuary for people going through the toughest of times. It helps us to build back stronger.

I want to say a special thank you to the Co-op as a company as well. I have children and being in the asylum system was tough for them too. During lockdown, the Co-op supported my children with food in school – it was a godsend.

So I want to say thank you as a Chair of the Refugee Action RAS Voice Steering Group, but also as a mother and an Expert by Experience. Thank you, Co-op Foundation, for giving such significant support and helping people seeking safety to rebuild their lives.

Nick Crofts, CEO of the Co-op Foundation, said:

“Co-op Foundation first funded Refugee Action in response to the Afghan refugee crisis in 2021 and, since then, I’ve been proud to see the vital support they’ve provided. They put those with lived experience front and centre – and this focus on expertise through experience was one of the many reasons we’ve committed a further £250,000 of flexible funding to their work. Refugee Action’s commitment to sharing power aligns strongly with the Co-op Foundation’s new strategy. We look forward to building fairer communities of the future together.”

Tim Naor Hilton, Refugee Action Chief Executive, said:

“I want to express my biggest thanks to the Co-op Foundation for choosing to continue your support at such a crucial time. Never before has the refugee sector faced such considerable challenges. In just two and a half years, we have witnessed both people and organisations suffer during covid-19 as the state of the asylum system continues to worsen. And now we are seeing the sector stretched even further to help the thousands of people who have fled Afghanistan and Ukraine, alongside an escalating cost of living crisis. Having your support gives us the resilience to continue stepping up at these times of crises, to learn and adapt from these challenges, and to build a better and fairer future for refugees in the UK.”

About the Co-op Foundation

Co-op Foundation is the Co-op’s charity and it’s co-operating for a fairer world. It believes co-operation is at the heart of strong communities and this makes it a different kind of funder. The Co-op Foundation works closely with communities, it listens and it learns. It unlocks communities’ power by focusing on those who have most at stake. The Foundation asked young people to shape its vision, and now its co-operating with them and others to turn this into reality.

Let’s build communities of the future together.

Get Co-op Foundation updates sent direct to your inbox by signing up to its blog.

Leave a Reply