The Refugee Buddy Project

The Refugee Buddy Project

by Marisa McGreevy-Rose

We have to leave this town, my mother told me. It’s not safe for us, she said.” The opening words of My Name is Not Refugee by Kate Milner never fail to move me, and I know I’m not alone in this. Thanks to the generosity of the author and Barrington Stoke, many more people will be moved, as this is the first children’s book to be donated to a café scheme at the Dove in Hastings that supports the Refugee Buddy Project

Sofia Gonçalves, the café manager (pictured) would love the new shelves to hold cookery books from around the world. Breaking bread, breaking barriers, food is something that creates connections; when you have broken bread with someone, it’s harder to maintain enmity. And it’s a small world! As she directed my husband to the space for the bookcase, Sofia told me that she is a graduate of Circus Space in Hoxton, which is where my stepdaughter also learned the flying trapeze almost twenty years ago. We learned from a young Russian composer, who helped my husband carry the bookcase, that since finding the café, he has found secure accommodation where he can compose in peace. The bookcase itself, donated by my sister-in-law, fitted perfectly into its intended space with millimetres to spare. My Name is Not Refugee is on the shelf and ready to be read to a child. There are no coincidences.

Close by, on the seafront, is a mural designed by the Buddy Refugee Project. Painted during the pandemic, it stopped me in my tracks when we first moved here, and over the past couple of years it has become a much publicised and well-loved local symbol. Last week I showed it to a luminous 77-year-old man from Poland whose life’s work is to teach blind children to read. Bob self-funds his travels to remote parts of the world and brings them the beautiful, tactile books he has produced with 3D images, because books are as important to children who cannot see as to my own children, who can. Bob has witnessed a lot in his life, not all of it positive. He loves the mural too.

The Dove café’s prices are genuinely affordable, and it’s a warm and safe environment for all. It operates a buddy drink scheme; I can buy a coffee for myself and pay forward for someone else who may come in later in the day but has no money. It’s a No Money Day, another important book for children by Kate Milner, also belongs on the children’s shelf, though I will donate that myself. 

Several publishers have also offered to donate cookbooks and children’s books, and I have my own connections locally who can support the scheme, but there is always room for more, especially as Sofia would love to be able to give the books to those who need them. If you are interested in supporting, please get in touch

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