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Essex, UK, 25/4/24

Since the deeply disturbing reality of the Rwanda bill passing into law on Monday, there has been reported distress in either side of the Channel, and many people displaced and in the asylum system reaching out to organisations for support and advice.

In a church drop-in session supporting men housed in Wethersfield Asylum Centre in Essex, we joined local volunteers offering collective support. A number of people joined us at The Community Table. Jenga remained a constant throughout the session, a cycle of building, excavating and collapse. There was no competition or ‘sides’ in the game and there seemed to be a unanimous drive to prevent the tower from falling.

There was a parallel process across the table with one man using the bricks to build a structure, then knocking it down and rebuilding a new form. He stayed at the table for most of the session, eventually drawing his home in front of a river and using this as a backdrop to a brick house he built.

One man thought he had lost his mobile phone and we watched him panic as he searched his pockets, followed by relief when he found it. We thought about the vital linking function that the phone fulfils in connecting people with their loved ones across the world.

One young man sat at the table for the time it took him to carefully assemble a piece with three figures and the words ‘Mom Love You’ out of bricks and numeracy blocks. He then left without exchanging any words.

On the journey home we both struggled to find words to articulate today’s session and instead tried to describe the feeling that we were left with, which was both a stillness and thick sadness.

Words by Katie Miller & Thomas Etheridge.

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