There are many roles to be filled in the Sanctuary. These include befriending, providing refreshments, the sorting and distribution of practical items, teaching ESOL, doing the admin and keeping the place clean and tidy! It is great when volunteers have a relevant qualification but we welcome those who are willing to work alongside the ‘experts’.


February 2014

Steph (ESOL Tutot at The Sanctuary) says:

steph at st chad's sanctuary

“Writing about my time as a volunteer at St Chad’s Sanctuary has proved more difficult than I anticipated. I think the difficulty lies here: being there is a life-giving and positive experience. I want to write in celebration of something which I have come to value very highly. But those who come are among the most vulnerable of our society: people who have lived horrific experiences in their home countries, and who continue to suffer trials and exclusion here. How do I write of my joy in being with them, without appearing to glory in their suffering? How do I explain why a place where my students’ descriptions of their lives can bring me close to tears, is a place of joy and life?

For all their struggles, my students are on average, the most motivated students I have ever taught, coming as they do with a deep desire to learn, to be able to be part of society here, and with a belief that something better is possible. Perhaps ultimately, my love for St Chad’s Sanctuary is very simple. It is a place that gives me life because it is a place of hope. In spite of everything in their past and their present, my students are people of hope. Perhaps because they know what real suffering looks like, they also know the meaning of true hope: a hope which is tangible, even if it is hard to explain. And I feel hugely privileged that they are able to share a part of that hope with me.”

(See Steph’s poem in Reflections)

Help from the staff of the Hilton Hotel at the N.E.C.

Many thanks to the wonderful group from The Hilton Hotel who stopped by St Chad’s Sanctuary recently to volunteer for the day. Your work was very much appreciated. We look forward to you coming back again soon.

Hilton Hotel Group photo 1 Hilton Hotel Group photo 2
Hilton Hotel Group photo 4Hilton Hotel Group photo 3   Hilton Hotel Group photo 5Hilton Hotel Group photo 6

We always need help! 

St Chads Sanctuary English Language StudentEach day many dejected, lonely and grief stricken people arrive. The Sanctuary is blessed to have caring and compassionate volunteers to welcome them, listen to their stories and meet some of their needs. There are many roles to be filled in the Sanctuary. These include befriending, providing refreshments, the sorting and distribution of clothing, food and hygiene products – doing the admin and keeping the place clean and tidy! It is great when volunteers have a relevant qualification, but we welcome those who are just willing to work alongside and support the experts.

If you wish to donate some of your time and  skills to St. Chad’s Sanctuary, please contact Sister Margaret.

Remember, anything at allhelps people withnothing at all.


United through the Gift of Art   by Gertrudes C. Samson

In my ministry at St. Chad’s Sanctuary, I sometimes run sessions on ‘Recycled Craft’. As a Columban Lay Missionary, this allows me to advocate for the integrity of all creation. I would like to tell you about a session I ran recently.
At last year’s annual Justice and Peace Network Conference in Swanwick, I found two cloth bags at the Fair Trade Exhibit with prints that captured the simple messages I wanted to use.  One carried the message, ‘Recycling is Fun’ and the other had a picture of a fish saying “PLASTIC BAGS – Plastic bags on the shore, Plastic bags on my door, Plastic bags in the sea, Plastic bags – THEY HURT ME!” Though the English language of my participants was limited, with the help of these two cloth bags, and a little additional explanation, I think I got the message across as I saw them nodding their heads.

I believe that craft making is fun, it is a great hobby, and it can also keep the mind rested from thinking about problems.  It is also a good bonding activity and an opportunity for people to talk about anything while doing it. People smile as they are making things and when they realise that they have artistic talent. The session also touched my heart, as I heard one of my participants saying, “Thank you God for my new knowledge”. I felt blessed to hear that. In addition, home-made crafts could give people the opportunity for extra income if they sell items and it could also

save them money as they wouldn’t need to buy gifts. It could also put smiles on the faces of people who would receive the items as gifts, knowing that they are personally made with love

As one of my participants said, “I will bring it home to my wife; she wanted to attend too but she got sick”. Then he asked me to help him cut letters N and R to stick to the two crafts he made. He said it was the initials of their first names. I am sure his wife was happy to receive what he had made.

Sometimes people resist trying craft making, thinking that it might cost a lot to buy the materials. But then if we use recycled materials, the cost would be very minimal and at the same time we are helping in the preservation of the integrity of creation through the reduction of waste being dumped in the environment. In the craft session I led, attended by six people, I only spent less than £2. And there are still around 75 percent of those materials left for another session. What did I buy? Only a pack of 20 pipe cleaners, which only cost 99p, and a small roll of double sided tape which cost £1. All the rest were recycled materials such as plastic cover caps (from liquid laundry soap, shampoo, spray cans, vitamins containers, etc.), empty cleaned plastic milk containers, used cleaned plastic bags, used Christmas crackers, used ribbons from cakes and former gifts, cardboard from boxes of cereals, plus some other materials and simple tools that are usually found in our homes.

Most of my ministry at St. Chad’s Sanctuary involves work with asylum seekers, refugees, and migrants. As I journey with these people, I realise that most of them are victims of war, violence, and injustice from various countries in different parts of the world. Being given asylum is a human right, according to the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. For me, it is part of giving them justice, that they enjoy that human right to seek asylum after all the traumatic experiences they have been through. What we are trying to do here also is to make them feel at PEACE in this new found country which is now their home.

I believe that everything that we do here in England as lay missionaries, no matter how simple or small it might be – like leading a ‘Recycled Craft’ session – is a contribution towards WORLD PEACE AND JUSTICE. Hopefully, groups of asylum seekers and refugees will experience a glimpse of justice and peace here. And when the time comes that they will be able to return to their own country, they can share and spread that experience of peace and justice

too, even in the midst of diversity. These are like small ripples in the ocean that will hopefully create a big tide someday.

If you wish to read the other articles written by Gertrudes C. Samson, other Columban Lay Missionaries, or know more about Columban mission please visit the website of Columban Missionaries at   http://www.columbans.co.uk

Music and Cards – a reflection by one of our volunteers on Summer School 2012

Summer time is here once again!  I was very delighted to take part in the Summer School in St. Chad’s Sanctuary. This project in Birmingham offers a place of welcome and hospitality to our brothers and sisters who are seeking asylum in UK as well as to refugees and other immigrants. I have been involved as a volunteer from the Philippines since I came to the Philippines in 2010. It is very humbling, inspiring and rewarding to be of service together with other volunteers.  We prepare and distribute clothing, food and hygiene,  especially to asylum seekers who are destitute and we teach english to those who speak other languages.

During our Summer School, volunteers were given opportunities to share their skills in fun activities.  I ran a session: “How to make cards”. The  aim was to introduce basic ways and techniques in making cards for various occasions. I also encouraged students to recycle materials  such as magazines, beads, ribbons and produce unique and colourful cards. As the event progressed, I was excited to see how talented and creative they were. They shared their stories as they made their creations and many were thinking of their loved-ones. One father made a card with a “Spiderman“ theme and said: “Look! This is for my son!”. I was deeply touched when I realised that his son and all his family are still in Iran but he hopes and prays that one day they will be re-united.

Other activities included a tour of  St. Chad’s Cathedral,’ How to grow your own Food’ and a  a trip to Tamworth Castle,  to name but a few. I also took a group interested in playing the guitar as I am very happy to share my knowledge and talent in guitar playing. With only 4 guitars in the room, we were able to sing songs and learn together the basic chords and how to strum the guitar. The students enjoyed the lesson and are looking forward to our next session!  We  are hoping that people will donate some guitars! I believe that ‘though we come from different countries, cultures and creeds, we can be united through the gift of music.

As I look back over my time in St. Chad’s Sanctuary, I realise how blessed I am to have the opportunity to build friendships with asylum seekers and what wonderful companions they are on  my way through life as a lay missionary. Journeying with them is often  joyous but can sometimes be really sad especially when they share their anguish about family and homeland.  With the grace of our Lord, we will continue the journey with laughter and hope.

John 15:12-15 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.




Ive been volunteering at the Sanctuary for nine months now. From my first day I felt very much part of the team.  We all work together doing various jobs such as sorting clothes into men’s, women’s, children’s and baby’s sizes for easy access.

Food has to be checked for dates of expiry and bags of food made up ready to go.  Education and computer classes have to be catered for (tea, coffee, biscuits etc) in the kitchen area so no end of washing-up as visitors come and go. Talking to the people who come to the Sanctuary, making them feel welcome and wanted is a very important role as people come from far away and need to feel someone is there to help.  That place is the Sanctuary.

Donations of food, clothes and toiletries are always being delivered from companies and people from other neighbouring Parishes. I look forward to my volunteer day at the Sanctuary as I find it very rewarding.


St. Chad’s Sanctuary – My Place of Ministry

By Gertrudes C. Samson, Columban Lay Missionary

Gertrudes C. Samson, a Columban Lay Missionary from The Philippines,
shares her experience working alongside asylum seekers at St. Chad’s
Sanctuary, Birmingham, England.
St. Chad’s Sanctuary is my place of ministry twice a week, as well as
my involvement in other ministries in Birmingham.  When I first
entered the Sanctuary, I noticed at once the beautiful tapestry
hanging at the right side of its main hall. It depicts the Holy Family
on a journey with Mother Mary riding on a donkey while carrying baby
Jesus and with St. Joseph walking on foot beside them. I thought it
was just a typical Christmas decoration, but it has a caption
underneath it: “WE TOO WERE ASYLUM SEEKERS”. Then I realized, it
depicts the Holy Family on their flight to Egypt to flee from the
persecution of Herod who wants to kill baby Jesus.
That tapestry then explained to me in a nut shell what the Sanctuary
is about and the value of its work.
An asylum seeker is someone who is fleeing persecution in their
homeland, has arrived in another country, made themselves known to the
authorities, and exercised the legal right to apply for asylum. St.
Chad’s Sanctuary, which is supported by the Salvation Army
and Catholic Church, ministers to them and to others who are far from
home. It offers friendship and hospitality to asylum seekers,
refugees, and other migrants. We try to give them listening hearts,
non-judgmental and compassionate hearts that respect human dignity
irrespective of culture, faith, or background. The sanctuary is
operated by just one full time manager, Sr. Margaret Walsh, and the
rest are volunteers like me.

You might ask what else we do at the sanctuary aside from listening
and talking with people. Actually we have many works. The following
are only some of the opportunities I get to help out with in various
ways together with other volunteers:
Sitting down with the asylum seekers in the English classes to help
them catch up with the lessons given by the teacher especially during
the drills or exercises;
Preparing and offering warm coffee or tea and biscuits for those who
come to the Sanctuary;
Washing dishes;
Sorting and organizing many piles of donated clothes to ensure they
are clean and still useful and not rags;
Sorting and repacking donated foods, and hygiene items and ensuring
that they have not yet expired;
Distributing donated food bags, clothes, and household items to asylum seekers;
Recording data and statistics about the works of the Sanctuary,
Cleaning up the Sanctuary work areas and premises, and many more…

Honestly speaking, at the end of each day, I feel very tired because
there is so much work in the Sanctuary, while volunteers like me are
so few. But definitely, I AM HAPPY! –for the many people I have met
from more than 80 different nationalities; for the loving friends I
gained in the person of Sr. Margaret, other volunteers, asylum
seekers, donors, and supporters of the sanctuary; but most of all,
because of the opportunity God has given me to serve Him there… for
Jesus said, “I tell you whatever you did for one of the least of these
brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me”. Although I was not born
at the time when Jesus and His family were still asylum seekers, I
know I am serving Him at the Sanctuary in the face of every asylum
seekers, refugees, and migrants that I meet. With that in my heart, I
know… JESUS IS HAPPY WITH US TOO in St. Chad’s Sanctuary – my place of

My Volunteer Experience by Balint Mirczik

As for me, volunteering at St Chad’s Sanctuary proved to be an excellent choice. If one’s seeking practical work with various people from many different countries and cultures, and beside the physical work (such us serving refreshments, sorting and organizing donations) expects spiritual experiences and good relationships as well, this place is reliable. Certain days are busier than others, but it never happens that I stuck behind the bar desk all day long; to my experience, the numerous volunteers are kind and helpful, and the Sanctuary provides many things to try, from art and craft sessions to English classes. I like this variety, makes the day colourful. One last note, as far as I see, beside the actual help that the volunteers provide to visitors, a nice and friendly community is developing around the Sanctuary, which too isn’t a disadvantage these days…

Balint Mirczik, volunteer