The Grand Priory of Bohemia work with displaced people in the Czech Republic, conducting fortnightly visits to local detention centres, bringing warm clothes, blankets, food and toiletries to those in need. Hundreds live in these centres, waiting for their asylum applications to be processed. Provided with minimal state support, they are stripped of their belongings on arrival and left with scarce resources to feed themselves and their families. Children are worst affected by the camps: often unable to attend school, they have very little to distract them from the hardship and frustration that surrounds them.
At Christmas, the Grand Priory organised a special celebration to bring joy and laughter to these forgotten families. Fifty guests were collected from a local detention centre, and joined by forty other refugees living in Prague who are also supported by the Order. Volunteers from the Czech Republic, Germany, the US and the UK welcomed refugees from Iran, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, India, Ukraine, Egypt, Syria, Cuba and Georgia with open arms to celebrate, an important break from their grim daily reality.
The day began with a visit to the Grand Priory’s ‘free shop’, where families could choose clothes, books and toys according to their needs. Next, volunteers shared a traditional Christmas lunch with their guests, including a selection of delicious desserts. The volunteers created a carefree atmosphere of fun for families and their children, including craft, workshops and games throughout the day. The highlight for many was a disco where guests and volunteers danced to music from all the many nations represented.
As well as gift bags for all the children, the volunteers organised a special souvenir for every family. They could sit for group photographs, which were developed, framed, and handed out as gifts at the end of the day.
Eshan and Amaya came from Iran, and have spent 18 months in the detention centre, enduring much hardship while they wait for their asylum applications to be approved.* Their son, Farhad, who is twelve, lives with them in the centre, and is teaching himself to play the piano on a donated keyboard.
Like many others, Eshan, Amaya and Farhad have faced dark times since their flight from Iran. Last December, the Grand Priory’s Christmas celebration allowed them to forget their troubles for a while, and come together with others in an atmosphere of love and joy.
* Names altered for privacy