Imagine arriving in Kent, soaking wet, freezing and exhausted after crossing the English Channel. Weak, frightened and dishevelled, many of the refugees do not speak or understand English. They probably haven’t eaten or drunk anything for a long time. These are some of the conditions refugees have spoken about enduring in their long, life-threatening journeys to the UK. And this is why The Separated Child Foundation’s arrival packs are so important.

“When they arrive, they need some basic essentials and if they didn’t have our packs, they would probably have nothing but the clothes they are wearing,” explains Karen Ashcroft.

Karen came to the charity having met one of its founders, Angela Gluck, on a 5-day study trip on Polish history and the concentration camps, where Angela had been the group educator. Karen’s partner’s father was one of the 732 Windemere children who survived the holocaust and came to the UK after the war as a child refugee. On return from this trip, she felt that offering volunteering services to help support such vulnerable children was the right thing to do.
Karen had 17 years’ supply chain experience from a brewing and packaging environment, working mostly in materials planning and stock control; this experience was a real bonus for the charity.

“I know that what I am doing is making a difference and it gives me a lot of satisfaction. The feedback we get from our 100 distribution partners is very encouraging. The partners are so grateful to be able to gift something, as resources for these children are limited.

“It is nice for our young people to have new things given to them on arrival. They are used to receiving second-hand clothing. One client had the biggest smile on his face when I handed him the ‘Welcome to the UK Pack’.  It also helped to break the ice between me and him as it was our first meeting. It gave us something to talk about and it made the session a positive one rather than a first session focused on the obstacles and problems he was facing.” Freedom from Torture, Islington.

This is just one of the many comments that Karen received but perhaps the one that had the biggest impact was the young man who said incredulously when he received his pack “Is this ALL for me?”

“They have so little,” says Karen. “Even when they get re-housed and go to college, they are in need of so many things – our packs are just the start but they do make a difference.”

Since the beginning of the UK lockdown in 2020, The Separated Child Foundation has given out just under 3,000 arrival packs and sleep packs, the largest amount going to their partner, The Refugee Council in Dover, who receive around 80 packs, five times a year.

“We noticed that basic COVID supplies had been included in the packs, which was a welcome addition. Packs are generally gratefully received by clients, who arrive in Dover with what they are able to carry in a small rucksack or equivalent or often just what they are wearing. Spare underwear and basics such as t-shirts etc are therefore essential” says Neil Thayne (South Team Manager, Children’s Section), The Refugee Council in Dover.

The arrival packs contain: a towel, a waterproof jacket, hat, scarf, gloves, warm top, 3 t-shirts, jogging bottoms, 3 pairs of socks, 3 pairs of underwear, flip flops or slippers, a COVID-safe bag with both disposable and reusable masks and sanitizer, wash bag with deodorant, soap, tooth paste and toothbrush, comb, notebook and pen. The girls receive sanitary wear.

The sleep packs contain: a night shirt (to fit all sizes), a plug-in night light, a padded eye-mask, with adjustable strap, a pair of ear plugs, a pouch of dried lavender, a packet of tissues, a stress ball or similar and a ‘Sweet Dreams’ card.

“If we had more money, we could buy better quality clothes.  The most expensive item in the pack is £7 and that is the waterproof jacket. I would love to be able to include a base layer with long sleeves that they could wear winter and summer but they cost around £10 each and we just don’t have the money”, says Karen.

So how can you help? 

In December 2020 the UK received 2,291 applications for asylum from unaccompanied children. With a regular donation of £10 a month you can provide three children with arrival packs, or 12 children with sleep packs, over the course of just one year.