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Friday, 12 August 2016 09:31


The Sanctuary will be closed between Monday 22nd August until Friday 2nd September 2016

We are open again Monday 5th September 2016


Thursday, 01 October 2015 14:38

An Article by Sister Margaret

Here is a piece written by Sister Margaret, and was recently featured in 'The Tablet'


Sister Margaret Walsh, of the Infant Jesus Sisters, who runs St Chad’s, in Birmingham, a sanctuary which helps the constant flow of refugees and asylum seekers that arrive every day, gives thetablet.co.uk an insight into their work

Since our records began, more than 57,000 people have signed in. At the moment about 150 come each week for practical items and a further 150 for English language classes. We have provided over 53,000 items of clothing, more than 10,000 bags of food, and around 3,000 hygiene packs.

Many who come are newly arrived and are still wearing what they wore on their long and hazardous journeys from home. We only see most people once or twice because they are frequently moved elsewhere in the country or may face deportation.

Mohammad, from Syria, joined my religious literacy group last week. In 2012, he barely escaped with his life while living in Damascus and has not had a good night's sleep since he left because he suffers the most awful flashbacks of what happened to him and his family.

His journey to Britain took him through several countries including Lebanon, Turkey, Greece, Italy and France. He survived two journeys in dangerously overcrowded boats, one of which capsized but, thank God, all passengers, including three young children were saved.

That journey cost him US$1,500 (£1,000) and he was forced on to the boat at gunpoint. Mohammad is a devout Muslim whose best friend in Syria was a Christian. He enjoys sharing his faith and he listens to, respects and appreciates the faiths of others. He tells me that I remind him of his grandmother whom he loved and admired!


"Mohammad has not had a good night's sleep since he left because

he suffers the most awful flashbacks of what happened to him and his family."


We have over 70 volunteers and a full programme of activities five days a week. Thanks to the generosity of benefactors and volunteers, we are able to give practical help, especially to those who are destitute and can offer immigration and welfare advice to a growing number.

We also teach 10 levels of English language including a religious literacy course.

It is a great privilege to offer a welcome and some sanctuary to these lovely people. Asylum seekers come from many parts of the world; few speak English. Every day we meet the most gracious people; they are full of hope and courage despite appalling stories of persecution and loss.

However, many are too heartbroken and beaten down to be cheerful. It can be very difficult for us too because often we can do little but suffer with them.
The widely publicised pictures of Aylan washed up on a Turkish shore have touched the hearts of many and there is now a much greater outpouring of goodwill in our country towards asylum seekers.
The outpouring of support for refugees since the death of Aylan has been 'a miracle'Outpouring of support for refugees since death of Aylan is 'a miracle' (PA)

I have worked in this area for 16 years and the change in public attitudes for the good really is a miracle. Before these heartbreaking images appeared, we often battled with negativity and with the many myths surrounding those who come here for protection.

Aylan’s father, who also lost his wife and an older son in the same tragedy, prayed that their deaths would do some good. I believe his prayers have been answered. A baby found among the reeds by the river Nile changed the course of our ancestors’ history (Exodus 2:3); we continue to hope and pray that Aylan’s tragic death will be spoken of and remembered by generations yet to come.

As the time goes on, we are welcoming back those we helped in the early days. They come to say thank you and so often they tell us that we are their only family in the UK. Always they want to give a helping hand. They are full of gratitude. It is very humbling to be part of their journey; we have entertained many angels since we decided to welcome people here.

In the words of Pope Francis: “They are men and women like us, our brothers and sisters; hungry, persecuted, injured, exploited, victims of war – seeking a better life, seeking happiness.”

St Chad’s Sanctuary is a charity that relies entirely on donations to continue its work. Visit their website at www.stchadssanctuary.com for more information

Friday, 04 September 2015 14:16

A trip to the Calais Jungle

Last week, 2 of The Sanctuary team, along with a few of their friends went to visit the camp in Calais: ‘The Jungle’. They took aid and helped out while they were there and this is their story:

While our government was building fences around Calais, we decided to help tackle the real issues. The desperate need of thousands of people, left with almost nothing after fleeing for their lives from their countries, and having already been through so much to reach a place of safety.

We researched the best way to help, and after finding the “Calais - People to People Solidarity-Action from the UK” group on Facebook, we decided it would be possible to drive to Calais and pack our cars as full as possible with things that were needed. We asked around for donations and were overwhelmed with the response. Within 24 hours we had already hit our fundraising target and had so many offers of donations! By the time we had finished collecting and sorting, we had around £500 and a bountiful supply of things to take over.

Once we had arrived with our tightly packed cars, we had arranged to meet Pascal, who ran one of the organisations that focused on practical goods handouts. He quickly made us realise the stark situation: one of the largest organisations helping the camp was run by a man living off his lifesavings, working 7 days a week, much of the time by himself. We dropped the clothing, food and hygiene we had taken and spoke more with Pascal about the situation. He told us of the great need for manpower to help the situation and funding to allow them to buy the items they run short of.

We then met Riaz, volunteering with another organisation in the camp, and he took us to visit the school. A small shack of corrugated metal sheets, with some children playing outside. The timetable was written up with classes throughout the week on a whiteboard, and as we were there many people were arriving, hoping to get a place in a class. We spoke to a few people and, everyone was very happy to see us and welcomed us, but almost all asked the same question. “Why?” Why was our government so against helping refugees? Why were they left like this? Sadly, we had no answer.

From here we went onto one of the camps in the Jungle. Make shift tents, a makeshift tap, piles of rubbish (tided as much as people could) and a dusty, muddy ground greeted us as we entered. More importantly, many people, waving and smiling at us, happy to chat to us and even the offer of a hot drink from a very generous Eritrean man!

While there we helped with an additional food handout after going to buy food with some of our donated money. A bi-weekly drop, done in different parts of the camp each time, so everyone could get something. 

The Calais JungleOn the day, we were lined up next to 3 vans with our cars, faced with a queue as far as the eye could see of people, hoping they would get something to eat. Each was given a small bag with some vegetables, then at each van, they were given a few additional items. Croissants, oil, bread, rice, whatever was available. And then each person moved on for the next in line. After 2 hours in the pouring rain, we were nearing the end of the line which must have been at least 500 people long. Those at the end left with only handfuls of croissants each, but luckily this time, each left with at least something. Many people only had t-shirts and sandals and had waited hours in the rain.

During our time there, it was a real struggle to see how this kind of thing can be happening just 25 miles from our coastline. With fences being put up around, rather than aid being provided. We spoke with many people, just like you or me, who had been through so much already, and simply want somewhere safe to live. It was clear to see that more needed to be done, and we all left quite down. We had gone over to help and it felt as if we had been just a drop in an enormous ocean. However, we all agreed, one drop can lead to a rainstorm. And that each of us would find our way to do more.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015 13:29

The Sanctuary Summer School: A week of fun and activities!

Asylum Seekers in BirminghamLast week, the Sanctuary held its yearly Summer school. The school provides an opportunity for our students and volunteers to come together, have some fun and try something new outside of our normal timetable. It was a week of varied, creative and some unusual activities. Monday hosted poetry and craft workshops in which the students were able to express themselves and create beautiful glass artwork. Games for beginners took place on Wednesday and on Friday our students enjoyed Jam making and guitar lessons. Whenever the activities were not taking place, there were games and refreshments available so people could sit, relax and bond. 
Tuesday and Thursday were a little different. On Tuesday, we all jumped on a coach and headed over to the National trust site Hanbury Hall. As we drove out of the city and into the Countryside our students were so happy to see animals and lots of greenery, reminding many of their homes. We were welcomed by the volunteers at Hanbury Hall and enjoyed a musical picnic as our Jesuit friends played instruments and sang to entertain us all on what turned out to be a beautiful summer’s day. We spent the day exploring the gardens and the hall before travelling back into the city to finish off the week!
Thursday was our big day! We all celebrated the end of the ESOL year and awarded the students their certificates during the annual summer BBQ. We prayed for good weather, and clearly fortune was on our side as the glorious sun shone throughout the entire day! The day was held at the Archbishop’s beautiful and colourful garden, which was filled with our 

students, regular visitors, benefactors and friends. We were lucky enough to be joined by some young people from NCS The Challenge. The young
 people entertained everyone with their drumming and singing and even started an impromptu and highly competitive game of football with our students. Alongside the wonderful sunshine and games, we feasted on BBQ food until the presentation ceremony began. Each student was awarded their certificate and the ceremony closed with one of our students asking to say a few words. He pulled out a carefully folded piece of paper and began to share his dreams of being able to read and write in English. Here he was in front of everyone, reading a speech exclaiming how grateful he was for all the help he’d had; help which allowed this very poignant moment to happen. Never had we heard such an applause and we ended the day with warm hearts and happy faces, already looking forward to next year’s BBQ. 
Each year both volunteers and students say the Summer School is a great way to be able to spend some time with each other and get away from the usual busy week at The Sanctuary. This year we felt this was so true and so important, that we have decided to incorporate some aspects into our new and revised timetable (to be released soon) to ensure we keep the feel good factor all year round. 
To everyone that was involved in any way in the Summer School, thank you for making it such a fantastic week and anyone who was unable to come, there’s no excuse for next year!
Tuesday, 19 May 2015 06:49

Open Evening

The St. Chad's 'Open Evening' will soon be here, so now is the time to put it into your diary.

st chad's open day for asylum seekers

Thursday, 14 May 2015 12:24

St. Chad’s Cathedral Peace Vigil

St. Chad’s Cathedral Peace Vigil

On Wednesday 6th May, we came together to remember, pray and be in solidarity with asylum seekers and refugees. This was a very powerful and moving experience.  It was also difficult in that we had some very small share in the suffering and anguish which asylum seekers go through in their journey to freedom and in their grief for loved ones, many of whom have been brutally murdered or left behind. People from several countries and of different faiths attended, as well as their many friends and supporters from around the Midlands.

peace vigil for st chads sanctuary


A simple liturgy organised by St. Chad’s Sanctuary, included hymns and readings in many languages including Arabic, Amharic and Tigrinya. We watched some heart-breaking footage showing the horrendous journey many have been through while crossing the Sahara desert and the Mediterranean. During the evening many came forward to light candles for loved ones and write prayers which were hung on a prayer tree. Heart-broken people openly wept as they raised their arms in supplication around the altar.  By the end of the vigil the Sanctuary was filled with light and with symbols of hope and trust in a God who walks with us and hears our prayer. 

In the tradition of an Irish wake, we were welcomed to the Canon’s Dining Room where we could listen, support and sympathise. Harrowing stories were told, many tears were shed and hopes and dreams shared.

Since the event, there have been many expressions of appreciation and gratitude.  People welcomed the opportunity to pray and grieve together. Mohammad summed up the feelings of many: “Last week I had very bad news. All my family and friends from my village are dead. I have been feeling very shocked, sad and alone. The vigil took away my loneliness. St. Chad’s Sanctuary is my new family.”

The evening reminded us of why St. Chad’s Sanctuary and many other voluntary agencies across the UK, must continue to work and support some of the bravest and most vulnerable people in society.

Margaret Walsh.

Friday, 06 March 2015 12:31

Safe Storage at St Chad's Sanctuary

A big thank you to Eric and The Office Furniture Warehouse in Birmingham for their fantastic donation of a metal storage cupboard. It will be used to store our academic textbooks while not in use, keeping them safe and sound!


St Chad's Sanctuary cupboard

Friday, 13 February 2015 13:17

A New Vision!

A huge thank you must be offered to Carol and Everyone at the P.A.A.T. (Professional Association of Alexander Teachers) for their donation of a new Projector.

As the picture below shows, it's already being put to good use in some classes. Sr. Margaret loves it because she can now show some of her favourite films in class...as teaching aids...she says!

A new projector for our Asylum Seekers

Thursday, 12 February 2015 13:04

Thank You From St Chad's Sanctuary

Asylum Seekers at St Chad's Sanctuary in Birmingham

We would like to thank all ourvolunteers for their continued work and support. You all do a fantastic job to make the lives of Asylum Seekers andRefugees a little bit easier.

A BIG thank you to the teachers and pupils of St. John the Baptist Primary School, Arron Way, Smithswood Birmingham.

Pupils and staff collected £637 for the Sanctuary through Lenten collections and came to visit us on 3rd May to present the cheque.  Thank you very much!

All smiles as Father O'Brien presents cheque for £637 to Sister Margaret

All smiles as Father O’Brien presents cheque for £637 to Sister Margaret (2013)

We would like to Thank David Roberts for setting up the ‘Gimme The Breaks’, Help the Homeless Jam!!

David set up a breakdancing event where people had to make donations of food and clothes to enter the event!!! The donations where fantastic so thank you to the kind people who gave them, but most importantly thank you David for arranging the event. 



Thanks to all the local Schools for their Harvest Festival Donations!

We would truly like to thank the many local schools who have generously donated food to us from their Harvest Festivals.  The fresh vegetables and fruit have been a welcome addition to our usual food parcels of dried and tinned food.  As you will see on our Donations page we gave out a record 112 food parcels last month all of which were given to very needy individuals and families.

Once again we would like to thank you for your wonderful generosity!


Thanks to Bryon from Bewdley for his donation and for the following words of inspiration:

“Although I am not a Christian myself I do sometimes think about how Jesus might live if he were physically living right now, perhaps next door.  I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t be taken in by lies and stirring of anger in the media around people that come to the UK to seek safety and different opportunities. 

I’m pretty sure he would be able to see past the man-made lines on maps called borders. I’m sure he would see the bounty of resources that if shared fairly would make everyone in the world much more than physically comfortable but also safe and secure.  I reckon he would value diversity, the differences in food, family arrangements, spirituality, language, pace of time, various preferences and the like but he would I’m sure be able to see and feel our common humanity. 

I’m quite confident he would be a volunteer at St. Chad’s Sanctuary.  In this case, I’m sure a far less a mortal like me could at the very least give some of my pay packet up to help this needed work.”



Big Thank you to St. Teresa’s,  Perry Barr

Our work at St Chad’s Sanctuary is only possible through the generous donations we receive from many people, including the parishes of Birmingham.

We recently read this item in the
newsletter of St Teresa’s, Perry Barr.

St Chad’s Sanctuary: The box situated in the Church porch marked with
St. Chad’s Sanctuary will become a permanent fixture in the Church and
therefore in our focus as a parish community. Ongoing donations may be made at
any time. This venture lead by Sr. Margaret is very much part of our mission
and responsibility as part of the Catholic community in the city of Birmingham.
We must take our part and support the work done by the sanctuary. Perhaps you
could volunteer your time to help run the mission. But most certainly we can make
weekly contributions of basic foodstuffs and money. Part of your weekly shop
might include an extra tin of tomatoes or fish or a packet of rice or pasta,
sugar or salt as well as oil. Little things every week will make a big
contribution and remind us weekly of our attempts to reach out to our brothers
and sisters in need. St. Chad’s Sanctuary is very much an opportunity and a
responsibility of the Church in the city – our opportunity, our responsibility.

Thank you Fr. Simon Hall and the parish
of St Teresa’s Perry Barr

Thursday, 22 January 2015 12:38

Toys for St. Chad's Sanctuary

Toys donated to St Chads SanctuaryIt was like a scene from Ballykissangel (for those of you who do not know, this was an Irish comedy set in a small village and particularly in the pub!)

Paul from Erdington Fencing came in saying he had been paid in toys, instead of money by The Belfry / Laurence Llewelyn Bowen's crowd and he had £3000 worth of toys to get rid of two days before Christmas. Well a deal is a deal and I thought ‘Thought Of Others’ could find a nice home for them.

Five van loads were delivered to St. Chad's Sanctuary, which is a first stop charity for refugees and asylum seekers, supported by St. Chad's Cathedral and The Salvation Army. Sister Margaret, who runs the Sanctuary said they were literally scraping the bottom of the barrel for children's toys; fortunately this year, the shepherds and the wise men / women of Erdington arrived in a St. Nick of time!!

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