Volunteering for Blue Bear is my joy, but it’s not my job. I earn my living working as a security consultant which occasionally requires me to travel up and down the country, often staying in mid-level, business-type hotels. I quite enjoy it. It’s nice to have a pyramid of folded white towels waiting in your ensuite bathroom and a little tray next to the TV with small cups, tea bags, biscuits and a built-in kettle. I particularly enjoy watching the local news, with stories that vary from stabbings and drug busts to coverage of the summer county show, depending on what part of the country you’re in.
Local issues matter and watching the news gives you an impression of what’s important to the people of that region. The recent tragic disappearance of Nicola Bulley, a middle-aged mum from Preston, dominated two weeks of national television coverage, much to the distress of her family and friends. The earthquake in Turkey and Syria that killed over 50,000 people and made 1.5 million homeless, received less airtime.
Global events, such as Iran’s human rights abuses or the Taliban’s re-capture of Afghanistan, are heartbreaking to watch on TV but they don’t really impact our lives. Or do they?
The reality is that in the globalised world we live in, international issues soon become local. Evidenced today in the small boats of refugees or “illegal immigrants”, crossing the thin stretch of water between France and Britain. The Nationality and Borders Bill and our infamous Rwanda plan seem only to have acted as an accelerant.
Last week, the government pledged to ‘push the boundaries of international law’ and bring about new legislation that aims to stop these small boats with measures that include making it impossible for anyone to claim asylum who enters the country illegally. When the available legal channels are so few, intentionally obfuscated, unaffordable and, in many cases, impossible, what we are effectively saying is ‘no refugees allowed’.
The truth is, there’s a hotel full of refugees just a few minutes from where I live and I feel guilty every time I drive past it. I have challenged myself to find a charity or church providing friendship and support to my town’s asylum seekers and find out how I might be able to help. I would like to put a few more names and faces to the people we hear described by our politicians as ‘illegal’.
Sometimes people question why Blue Bear is fundraising to help children in the Dominican Republic when there is so much need at home. It’s a good question. I have a longer answer that explains how Blue Bear was founded for the exclusive purpose of maintaining a teddy bear fund for children rescued from sexual slavery, first started in the DR five years ago. Sometimes it’s simpler to say; because we can.