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Dress Down Day (14 October 2009)

Date: 14/10/2009
Duncan Lewis, Main Solicitors, Dress Down Day

Hope is such a simple word but is not so easy delivered. As we entered through the glass doors into an open plan reception it is clear this is not a normal doctor’s surgery. Small paper doves hang from the ceiling, and the waiting room opens out into a peaceful garden. For those who have suffered abuse and torture, having been detained, processed, and released into modest NASS accommodation or are sleeping on someone’s floor, this could very well be the first place they have been to which feels safe.

The Medical Foundation is fast becoming the best known charity for the provision of medico-legal reports in support of asylum claims. As lawyers we do our best to help asylum seekers with the tools we have, but we cannot always instil the trust we would like to, nor can we help them survive their experiences. The Medical Foundation employs a culture of belief, which is in itself unique. Therapy offered can range from counselling and group sessions to non verbal therapy in art and a developing garden project. Clients will shortly be displaying some of their work alongside artists in a forthcoming exhibition.

In three offices across the UK numerous permanent and volunteer staff form part of this growing independent organisation. The Medical Foundation does not receive government funding, yet the valuable work they are undertake is relied upon by lawyers and government officials alike. An archive of torture awaits digital organisation and assessment of the phenomenon. The focus of the Medical Foundation is to document the phenomenon of torture and help victims. Some of those victims are young children; others are women who have had children as a result of sexual violence. Medico-legal reports are only a small part of that process, and there are some rare occasions where reports are provided pro bono even when they cannot be used in the legal process.

On Friday 4 September hundreds of people across all of the Duncan Lewis’ branches took part in a dress down day. Even those who could not take part contributed, and many generously gave more than was asked of them. Most simply took the relaxed approached, but some had more fun with silly hats and wigs. Through such a simple gesture we were able to raise £2,200 being given to the Medical Foundation. Although it seems like a small contribution, the Medical Foundation were truly impressed and grateful, prompting an invitation to tour their office and meet with their staff. A small gesture can really give those who have suffered the most horrific atrocities a chance to find some peace within. Who can put a price tag on that?

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