Reflections from the NNLS asylum drop-in

Deborah Koder co-founded and co-ordinates the New North London Synagogue drop-in for asylum seekers. Taking place once a month, the drop-in supports asylum seekers in the UK, offering them a range of services, as well as food, clothing and supermarket vouchers. Read more about it here.


To say I was moved to help by the horrors I read in the news would not be entirely true – I think the real reason I helped was because it was almost my 14th birthday and so I was reflecting what I was doing in my life and came to the conclusion I was wasting too much of my time not helping people.

We arrived at about 12:30 and people were already setting up; my dad and I decided to help in the clothes room. Each group of asylum seekers was allowed eight minutes in there. What people wanted most was new underpants (I was in the men’s section and we had none), new socks and good shoes. Very few people managed to find shoes to fit as it seems everyone but the people who had donated was a size eight! But some left with everything they needed.

I think more important than the food provided or the clothes given out is the sense of friendship that stems from the drop in; many of these people have been hounded from place to place and treated not as humans but as problems. However at the drop in, you got the sense that they felt safe and with all the volunteers smiling and helping wherever they could, you hoped that from here, life can only get better. [BD]

Over the years the NNLS Drop in has worked to help address the problems of asylum destitution – and we know that our services are highly valued. The insecurity of being immersed in an unfamiliar culture and the deep sense of isolation far from family and friends weigh heavily on our clients. Their persistence, courage and determination to attempt often hazardous journeys to the UK and to live on the margins of society are testament that staying home is far worse.
We offer all our clients a supermarket voucher, travel expenses, nutritious food, quality footwear and clothing and access to medical appointments. The legal signposting at the Drop in and links with top lawyers who offer to take on clients’ cases is a hugely valuable resource to our project.

Volunteer Reflections

‘It was an exhausting but uplifting afternoon’

‘Today was a great ice-breaker for me as I am not a ‘joiner’ by nature, so thank you for the warm, enthusiastic contact both prior to the drop-in, on arrival and to follow up.’

‘The New Volunteer induction was brilliant with a swift but excellent introduction to the facilities and format of the day. A good way to welcome new people and provide essential information.’

‘I was really impressed by the scope and the intention of the project- it’s brilliant. I was directed to go on the tour for new volunteers – a good idea as there are so many areas, and an explanation helps things fall into place.’

‘I was very impressed by the respect and goodwill flowing all around, towards visitors as well as between volunteers and virtually everyone interacting around me.’

‘There was a high level of appreciation for the food today and clients thoroughly enjoyed the variety of dishes made by volunteers. Thank you!’

‘As always, today I felt the overwhelming appreciation from many of the clients today in response to such small efforts to help such as giving them a new pair of socks for a child or helping them find a scarf.’

‘There’s one lady I have been thinking about – at 1st appearance she was very well presented and smiley but then her demeanour changed as she pointed down to her child’s shoes which were completely broken with a huge hole at the front… unfortunately she was too late for shoes.’

‘The whole day was incredibly well-organised, with a clear structure in place and volunteers all undertaking useful, purposeful work. It was great to be given a distinct role on the day.’

Please donate good quality warm adult clothing and footwear, including coats and jackets to our Drop in which welcomes over 300 asylum seekers and their children each month. We are also appealing for packs of new underwear, scarves, hats and gloves.

For more information how to get involved with our project please email [email protected]

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