The month of December is now upon us which means one thing: BlueCrimbo is officially back!
This year Everton Football Club has launched a Blue Box Appeal to support some of the most vulnerable and underprivileged members of our community.
Shoeboxes filled with essential items will be distributed to those in need across Merseyside in the hope that they will help the recipients have a happier Christmas this year.
Through the Club’s official charity, Everton in the Community, the Blues are looking to deliver the donated boxes to underprivileged children and children in care, low income families, homeless people, the elderly and individuals who often have to make a choice between buying food or paying bills at Christmas time.
People seeking asylum and refugees are among some of the most vulnerable groups in society. Before arriving in the UK they may have experienced violence, war, torture and may have been separated from, or even lost, family members and friends.
Everton in the Community works with Asylum Link Merseyside to support local people who have been displaced by conflict or poverty in their own countries and offers assistance to families and the wider community in which they are based.
Dominique Collins Assala is a former asylum seeker who knows all about the difference Everton in the Community – and the Blue Box Appeal - could make to people’s lives.
He is a former asylum seeker from Cameroon who escaped the country because his friends and family were being murdered.
“I ran away from that in the beginning,” explained Dominique. “You don’t move because you want to, you are moving because you know if you stay your life is in danger because you have already lost someone you love - your brother. The next target may be you if you are still living there.”
As part of his path to the UK, Dominique hid inside a cargo ship to Brazil where he slept rough on the streets for three months before travelling to England. After being placed in various towns and cities, Dominique arrived in Liverpool.
He adds: “When they sent me here, the first week I go Asylum Link, and I see ‘wow’, it’s different again. There are so many nationalities and people coming from everywhere win the world.”
Having been helped by Asylum Link and Everton in the Community when he arrived on Merseyside, Dominique has now successfully been granted asylum and works as a volunteer for both charities - as well as working full-time as a security guard to support his young family.
He is involved with Everton in the Community’s 10-week football programme initiative. Funded by NHS Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group, the initiative supports a number of the city’s male refugees and asylum seekers.
The programme offers the participants an opportunity to communicate, socialise and make friends as well as a sense of belief and fitness.
Stuart Carrington, EitC’s Walking Football Co-ordinator, added: “Dominique was a semi-professional footballer in his country before he had to go. He comes along to our weekly sessions and he’s an inspiration to the guys. They see where he is now, he has got a family and a job he loves so it’s an inspiration that those guys can look to achieve.”
Established in 2001 to help newly arrived asylum seekers find help and friendship in the city, Asylum Link Merseyside is a safe space for Asylum Seekers and Refugees to meet, relax and find out more about the community in which they have been dropped into. The organisation offer a wide range of services including social and wellbeing programmes and is visited by around 170 people per day.
The Club’s BlueCrimbo Blue Box Appeal will support people who are facing the same situation Dominique encountered as an asylum seeker and others who attend the weekly football sessions at Jubilee Sports Centre in Kensington, with the aim of giving them a much needed boost during the festive period.
Ewan Roberts, Manager at Asylum Link Merseyside, has urged people to support the campaign: “This Christmas the BlueCrimbo Blue Box appeal is for all communities that Everton interact with and is simply asking people to put things in a box and actually give someone a present. Whether you look at that as a gesture or a hand of friendship, it’s a good thing.”
You can do your part to help support vulnerable and underprivileged groups in Liverpool by simply wrapping an old shoebox in Christmas wrapping paper and filling it with essential items suitable for a child, family and/or the elderly and drop it off at Everton One, Everton Free School or the Matchday Hub for the games against Crystal Palace on Monday 7 December or Leicester City on Saturday 19 December.