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June 20, 2022
By Phil Davey, Vice President and Country Manager, Alnylam UK & Ireland and Tim Naor Hilton, Chief Executive, Refugee Action
The plight of refugees has rightly recently received huge positive media attention and public sympathy as the Ukraine crisis continues to shatter lives. The UN estimates that almost 5 million people have been forced to leave Ukraine since the Russian invasion began. Yet, the sad reality is that the Ukrainian refugee situation is just the latest in a series of refugee crises. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees1, by the end of 2021 there were more than 27.1 million refugees in the world, which doesn't include the estimated 7.5 million people who have fled Ukraine due to the Russian invasion.
In our daily news, we have been shocked by the sheer scale and speed of displacement, as women, children, and older people leave behind their homes, possessions, businesses , family members, friends and lives, making impossible, heart-breaking decisions often in the span of a few hours. In pursuing physical safety, they plunge into a world of staggering unknowns.
A Commitment to Help Improve the Health of Humanity
At Alnylam, we believe that everyone has the right to fair and just opportunity to live the healthiest life possible, no matter who the are, where the live, or how much money they make. This requires a concerted effort to remove obstacles to achieving accessing quality healthcare, such as poverty, discrimination and a lack of access to good jobs with fair pay, quality education and safe, affordable housing. This belief is the foundation for Alnylam Challengers, a global Community Impact Initiative which we launched in 2022.
Alnylam Challengers aims to improve health equity by partnering with diverse, and boldly ambitious social enterprises and non-profit organisations to create new, sustainable solutions that improve the lives of underserved communities around the world.
Putting our Passion to Help People to Work for Refugees
The passion of our people and Alnylam’s commitment to action are why we’re so excited to share that Alnylam has committed to a three-year corporate partnership with Refugee Action, a United Kingdom (UK)-based charity dedicated to helping refugees and people who are seeking asylum in the UK. This bold and courageous charity has, for 41 years, been advocating for and helping refugees who’ve fled some of the world’s worst regimes and wars, receive the essential support they need to live again with dignity and build safe, happy, and productive lives in the UK. Our donation of £100,000 (~USD 120,000) per year for the next three years will support the expansion of the charity’s innovative program ‘Pathways to Work,’ which helps refugees become employment-ready in the UK.
The work to explore and identify long-term partners in refugee assistance began more than a year ago when we formalized our Corporate Responsibility framework, and we anticipate that our UK partnership with Refugee Action will be one of several such partnerships we will launch in 2022.
The Impact of Work on Health and Well-Being
Good quality employment is an important factor in refugee integration. It advances the learning of English and can also give people back their self-esteem and confidence, supporting mental health and well-being. Intuitively, differences in health outcomes across Europe are closely linked to the degree of social disadvantage, and refugees are among the most socially disadvantaged population groups.
Many refugees are forced to leave successful careers behind when they flee their country, and so have a wealth of skills to share. Despite 94% of refugees in the UK expressing a desire to contribute and become productive members of society, they often face a number of barriers that impact their ability to work including gaps in employment history, inability to use qualifications from their country of origin, language barriers, inexperience of the UK labour market, lack of digital access, homelessness and poverty, as well as exploitation and structural racism in the employment sector. And yet, work opportunities for refugees abound in the UK.
There are currently more job vacancies than unemployed people in the UK for the first time since records began. The unemployment rate fell to 3.8% between January and March 2022, its lowest for almost 50 years, as job openings rose to a new high of 1.3 million2. Despite this, refugees in the UK experience an unemployment rate three times greater than the UK national average.
Expanding and Supporting the Pathways to Work Program
Through our collaboration, Alnylam will support the digital expansion of Refugee Action’s ‘Pathways to Work’ program which was successfully launched in January 2022 with the help of the charity's existing partners. WIth Alnylam's support, this project can now help an additional 450 refugees overcome the myriad of challenges they face when approved to work. The existing in-person Pathways to Work workshops run by Refugee Action in Bradford, Greater Manchester and the Wirral resulted in 100% of project participants reporting increased levels of confidence, competency, and skill in engaging with UK employment systems. Expanding the digital version of the program will not just increase the number of participants who can benefit but remove barriers to participation such as travel costs and childcare concerns.
This collaboration is not just about funding though. Alnylam employees will have the opportunity to become employability mentors, providing participants with extra, tailored support with goal setting, getting ready for work or volunteering, and with their English language. They will also assist participants as volunteer career advisers, supporting refugees to make decisions about their future and help them to reach their full potential. As a knowledge based company with a highly skilled diverse workforce ourselves, we’re honored to be partnering with Refugee Action to help address this significant social need.
We have long admired the work of Refugee Action, and look forward with great anticipation to the impact on the well-being and health of humanity that this partnership will have.
1 Available at: https://www.unhcr.org/en-us/figures-at-a-glance.html. Accessed June 2022
2 Office of National Statistics, May 2022
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