Value Without Judgement
It's been nearly six years since I arrived in Birmingham, England, as a Columban lay missionary. When I first came to this country, I honestly thought that I was going to give more and that people would learn more from me. The reality is that I receive and learn more from them.
Through the years I have made amazing friends, and I have been involved in many organizations, one of which is the Ujamaa women's group which is a part of the Hope Projects organization. The Hope Projects works to support and empower destitute asylum-seekers and provides emergency short-term accommodation for destitute and homeless refugees.
When I started volunteering at Hope Projects, the group was doing sewing and knitting. It has since developed and become more a place of information, support, campaigns, training and helping the women to know the rules and integrate in the British environment.
The women's group is also a multifaith place for socializing, friendship and sisterhood, which lifts the burden of stress and homesickness. It is also a place to share the difficulties and struggles of the asylum process.
As for me, it has been a real blessing and a privilege to have been able to volunteer in this project, as I have interacted with women from different cultural backgrounds and religions. It has been a humbling experienced.
Some of my favorite moments were experiencing eating inter-cultural dishes which happens every last Tuesday of the month. It is during this day that we eat together, and we greet and sing birthday songs to the celebrants. It gave me the impression that these women I've been journeying with are strong and hopeful women. Despite what they've been going through in their lives, they are still hopeful. And when one of them would receive permission to stay and would announce the news to the whole group, I could see how everybody was happy about the news as we congratulate and cheer the person. I love celebrating with them, especially when we all agree to wear our traditional dress, cook our traditional food and have a meal together. I feel I am with a multinational family.
There is beauty in diversity, indeed. Just recently we had our first inter-cultural day, and it turned out fantastic as everybody wore traditional dress and shared traditional food. We danced and sang to entertain ourselves and the Hope Projects supporters. It was also a moment to say farewell as they know I'm leaving soon. My heart felt so warm upon hearing kind words from them and receiving a gift from the group as they contributed for a gift for me. I know how little they get, but they managed to give something to me which I didn't expect at all. They are generous despite their situation.
My experience has deepened my spirituality as a missionary. Because I feel their faith in God, my faith is deeper. I find it so touching that when they are waiting for their papers or feeling depressed or ill many of them would still ask for prayers. They would ask me to pray for them to have good results. Their faith has shown me to be more thankful of the small things I have in life and more grateful for being called to participate in God's mission, through Columban mission in Britain.
To have been able to hold hands with someone who was thankful for having been allowed to remain in Britain, or to have a temporary accommodation, has changed my outlook on life and allowed me to become a more selfless person, a better version of myself. The greatest lesson of journeying with the Hope Projects women has taught me to value to each person without judgement and show them love as they are no different than me.
I thank God for giving this wonderful opportunity to be part of this project. As I conclude I also pray for God's blessing for all women who suffer any forms of violence or struggles and whatever hardship women are going through in life.
Columban lay missionary Rosalia Basada lives and works in Britain.