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When you meet refugees, it's not good to ask too much about their family and home. That kind of talk takes time, trust and confidence. Instead, keeping the conversation light, you might ask how they like it here. The answer is usually positive - Sheffield's great, most people are very welcoming, this feels like home. Except, of course, that you can see into their wistful smiles: thoughts of another home. Among the world's billions of people, some have always left their homeland, for multiple reasons, and especially nowadays. Trying to understand the truth of this massively complex situation is hard. Even expressing a point of view beyond the most simplistic slogan quickly crosses the borders of most people's knowledge, drowned in the dirty waters of tabloid slurs. This refugee crisis is the worst since the Second World War, according to Jim Steinke, head of the Sheffield-based Northern Refugee Centre (NRC), interviewed recently on Sheffield Live TV. NRC helps refugees to start new lives and escape from the traumas of their past. The endless cuts mean that it is desperately short of funds, so they've had to launch an appeal to raise £100,000 from the public. Please visit their website if you can help. Another example of people responding to crisis is the collection of donations to be sent to refugees in Calais at Theatre Delicatessen on the Moor (Thursday to Saturday, 11-4pm). It's not just money. They send anything useful. You can make a real contribution simply by speaking English. Conversation Club runs regular afternoons in the city centre. These are informal and really useful for people who need to practise their English. For volunteers there, developing a friendship based on understanding with people from other parts of the world is one of the joys of this kind of activity. Learn for Life Enterprise on London Road is a similarly great, lively organisation which welcomes volunteers to assist with teaching English and various activities. For those who aren't ready to attend classes, Sheffield Association for the Voluntary Teaching of English (SAVTE) trains volunteers to teach English to the most isolated people, providing life-changing language skills and self-confidence. The most fundamental human needs of food and companionship are being dished out with love by the Open Kitchen Social Club. This opens its doors every Monday, 11am-3pm, at St Andrew’s Church Hall on Upper Hanover Way, as a place to meet for all in need, including asylum seekers and refugees. Food is free of charge to those with no income, while voluntary donations are requested from anyone else. There isn't space here to ask the wider questions, like what people should do if their home has been destroyed, or why the Government isn't encouraging cross-border friendships and cultural exchange. Britain had no immigration controls before 1905. Do we absolutely need borders? Is it really a crisis or a manufactured moral panic? Instead, many Sheffield people and organisations are rightly concentrating on helping migrants. When we see suffering, the politics don't matter so much. People just want to do something. It’s a human reaction. On a personal level, this really counts. If you haven't already, why not help? Why not open your life to another perspective? Northern Refugee Centre Theatre Deli Conversation Club Open Kitchen Social Club Alt-Sheff 20x20 OPEN ART EXHIBITION Access Space, Sidney Street Access Space, the unconventional gallery on 'Art Street', is now accepting artworks for the annual free 20x20 exhibition. Everyone is welcome to display a 20 by 20-inch picture. Pre-prepared boards are available or you can make your own. Exhibition runs 13 November to 17 December. access-space.org SHEFFIELD CYCLE JUMBLE 31 October | 9am-12pm | St. Mary's, Bramall Lane This bi-annual jumble sale for bike bits and bobs just gets bigger and better each time, with stalls booked well in advance. It combines bargain hunting with the joys of cycling and cheekily retro posters. Arrive early. Cycle parking available. sheffieldcyclejumble.wordpress.com )

Next article in issue 91

Labour: Change beyond Corbyn

When Jeremy Corbyn squeaked onto Labour’s leadership ballot, he was a 100-1 outsider. Nobody expected him to win, least of all a demoralised…

When Jeremy Corbyn squeaked onto Labour’s leadership ballot, he was a 100-1 outsider. Nobody expected him to win, least of all a demoralised

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