IN the last year our community has shown incredible kindness and compassion. Those qualities are the best of us, and it is what we saw in abundance last week during a range of events to mark Refugee Week.

Organised by the council’s dedicated Resettlement Service, a programme of inclusive events was arranged celebrating the contributions, creativity and resilience of refugees and people seeking sanctuary here. 

The theme of the week was ‘We Cannot Walk Alone’, and around the borough a series of painted footsteps have been placed to signify the journeys people have made to come here.

They feature the slogan ‘Our Warm Welcome’, which is a local charity working to support asylum seekers and refugees in our communities. They were also heavily involved in organising the many great events which took place last week. 

Two friendly football matches took place between councillors and members of the refugee community, kindly hosted by Newton Sports Club and Thatto Heath Crusaders, and I was delighted to take part in the men’s game; a range of crafts, classes and reading sessions were held at local children’s centres; and Café Laziz, a popular community café, hosted events at The Hope Centre in Windle teaching visitors how to make tabbouleh and through casual conversation learn about different cultures over cups of Arabic tea and coffee with locally settled refugees.

Local schools got involved too, with a variety of online dance and creative writing workshops. 

St Helens Star:

A women's football match also took place

I’ve written here previously about the long and proud history of immigration in the St Helens borough, and the vital contribution made to our local story by those looking for a better and safer life for themselves and their loved ones. 

Most notably, the rapid development of local industry in the 18th and 19th centuries was built largely on the backs of immigrants, with areas of St Helens town becoming known as ‘Little Ireland’, and cottages near Watson Street were dubbed ‘Welsh Row’ because they were home to workers from the valleys who came to work at Ravenhead Copper Works. 

In the middle of the 20th century St Helens became home to Jewish and Polish people fleeing the horrors of fascism.

One of the thousands of Jewish children who found refuge in Britain via the ‘Kindertransport’ was a small boy named Alf Dubs, who went on to become an MP and Lord, and who now campaigns for refugee rights.

He wrote this week: “The arrival of the Kindertransport children in the UK was not without controversy. But leading politicians of the time appealed to the British sense of fairness and its proud humanitarian tradition to persuade the public to offer children like me sanctuary.” 

St Helens Star:

Footsteps were painted in th town centre as part of the event

Immigration remains a controversial issue and I am well aware there will be readers who feel strongly about this.

My view is clear: we’re at our best as individuals and as a society when at every opportunity we show kindness and compassion, when we uphold human rights, and when we treat each other with dignity. 

Thank you to the council’s Resettlement Service team, to Cllr Jeanie Bell, to Café Laziz and Our Warm Welcome, and to the Mayor of St Helens Cllr Sue Murphy and all those who supported the events for helping to put these values into practice.

Best wishes to all Star readers.