Members of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) have been giving the Belfast immigrant community a ‘helping hand’ with food and essential items during the Covid-19 pandemic at the International Meeting Point (IMP) centres in the north and south of the city.
Since 2010, PCI’s International Meeting Point has been offering practical assistance to the hundreds of immigrants and asylum seekers, who arrive in the city each year. Although much of the work has been curtailed due to the pandemic restrictions, staff working at the IMP have continued to keep in contact with many immigrants and asylum seekers.
Over recent months, they have been helping dozens of families and individuals each week who have reached out to them in desperate need for the basic necessities of life. Thanks to a continuing flow of donations, the staff and volunteers have been able to provide the items in a Covid-safe way. In doing so, they are able to help one of the most vulnerable groups in society at this time.
Talking about the need that there is, Keith Preston, IMP leader, said, “Over the last month or two, there has been an incredible increase in the number of people getting in contact with us in urgent need of food and basic toiletries. Most of these calls for help have come from people who have arrived in Belfast recently from various countries in the Middle East. Items required include rice, pasta, cooking oil, tinned fruit, tea, coffee, sugar, washing up liquid and toiletries.
“Thousands of items are already being distributed each week, and we have been overwhelmed with the increased response of local churches and individuals, who we can’t thank enough. We are more than amply supplied with clothing for both men and women now, but we are still in need of toiletries and basic food items.”
Keith continued, “We have put together a list of items required and these can be left at the International Meeting Point, 133 Lisburn Road, Belfast where they will be distributed to those in need.
“To minimise journeys during the current restrictions, we would ask that only people living locally donate at this time, and that they should consider dropping off their donations on their way home from doing their own essential shopping,” he said.
Based on the Lisburn Road in south Belfast, the International Meeting Point has been offering a wide variety of help and services to those who come through its doors over the past 10 years. This has included serving food and drinks in the cafe, running English classes, taking people shopping, helping the unemployed find jobs and leading Bible studies. In 2019 an ‘Op Shop’ was opened at Carlisle Circus in north Belfast, to reach out to those living in that part of the city.
Keith explained that the work of the IMP has been greatly impacted by restrictions to prevent the spread of Covid-19, however staff and volunteers have kept in contact with many families and individuals by phone and online.
“At this time of great need it is a privilege to be able to show the love of Jesus in very practical ways to those who are struggling to adjust to life, and the weather, in Northern Ireland. We are very grateful to all who have already donated items. Everyone who donates plays a vital part in this important ministry. As always, we also continue to appreciate prayer as we seek to witness for Jesus to all who come to the center for help,” he said.
For a full list of food and toiletries required and how to donate them in a Covid-safe way, please contact the Presbyterian Church in Ireland’s Mission Department on 028 9032 2284, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.