Isabelle Kershaw, a volunteer with Women for Refugee Women, writes here about making Christmas cards for women in detention
Recently we all sat down – volunteers, staff and refugee women – to make Christmas cards for women who are locked up in Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre. Women who seek asylum can be locked up in detention in the UK and it can be a very isolating and distressing experience. We wanted these cards to show our ongoing support for these women as we campaign against detention. Many of the women in the refugee women’s group, Women Asylum Seekers Together London, have had experience of detention at Yarl’s Wood so for them, making these cards had a special kind of significance.
London is clothed with festivity and with the air getting chillier, things are starting to fizz with that holiday excitement. For the women at Yarl’s Wood, the Christmas period will be a very different experience. As one of the WAST women, who was held there last year, said ‘Christmas is just not Christmas.’ A Christmas away from friends and family is hard enough. A Christmas at Yarl’s Wood can be quite desperate. It is a place where vulnerable women are treated like criminals, having committed no crime, and are uncertain as to when they will be released. Another of the WAST women said that she would not wish detention on her worst enemy.
Over the previous week I had scrabbled together bits of coloured card, festive wrapping paper, sequins, buttons and a mountain of glitter. Not quite sure what would emerge from the sparkling deluge, we were armed with two fantastically capable volunteers who led the way and devised a lovely concept.
Each of the women was given a small card to design, which would then be fitted together onto one big card to create a mosaic of their support.
We had a great day, the women were very creative in their designs and out of the glitter arose something powerful and poignant. Some of the women designed their cards to be bright and diverting and other cards were powerful in their simplicity. One of the cards read ‘Love’ and above it ‘never lose hope.’ These words of support really ring out amid the colourful designs.
We took the cards to Yarl’s Wood and hope that this small gesture of love and support reminded the women there that they are not forgotten or alone. There are women outside the detention centre, some of whom have experience of detention, who want to stand up for them and work for the release of all those who have sought asylum in the UK.
Watch our short film about making the Christmas cards here.