Elwaldo Romeo lived in Britain for nearly six decades before he was told he was not a citizen. The grandfather-of-one who had been in Britain since he was four, and now he was being told to report to the Home Office every two weeks.
Elwaldo’s story was one of many victims of the Windrush scandal, where a legal loophole meant Carribean migrants who arrived in the UK as children were wrongfully detained and deported, losing jobs and being denied access to the NHS over their immigration status.
Patrick Vernon spoke to Elwaldo daily – and he decided to do something to help. Incensed by the injustice, Patrick started a petition to give Windrush generation citizens amnesty, and force the government to apologise to them. While hundreds of thousands of people signed, it wasn’t enough. They needed money to fight back. That’s where GoFundMe came in.
Patrick launched the Windrush Justice Fund with the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), raising money to give people caught in the Windrush scandal access to urgent legal advice.
“I think it touched a nerve in public consciousness,” Patrick says. Not that Patrick knew any of that when he started the campaign. In fact, he was worried it wouldn’t get any donations. “In many ways all my fears were unfounded. But I was scared. It’s the first time ever I had ever done a crowdfunding campaign.. But as I spend a lot of time on social media, in the end promoting the campaign felt quite natural.
More than a year later and the Windrush Justice Fund has received funds raised by church services, politicians, celebrities and hundreds of members of the public. It’s now an official project being run by the JCWI in partnership with the Mayor of London that has raised more than £40,000.
Patrick hasn’t stopped there. He also raised money for Dexter Bristol, whose sudden death at the age of 57 was linked to the pressure he was under whilst trying to resolve his status as result of Windrush Scandal and for Windrush victim Sarah O’Connor who also died at 57.
Feeling inspired? Here are Patrick’s top fundraising tips:
1. Be authentic
“If people are going to part with their money, they need to trust where it’s going. So, it’s important to choose a cause you believe in because this adds authenticity to a campaign. I’ve been campaigning for the Windrush generation for a long time. I’ve been an advocate of improving health and social care for a long time. This means that whenever anyone Googles me, they can see I’m truly invested in this cause.”
2. Use your influence
“You have to leverage whatever influence you have. Think about who in your network can help you get your message out or even just give you some advice. Most importantly, try to objectively assess what you can do yourself!”
3. Tell stories, not news
“Focusing on telling the story of the person or people behind your campaign rather than just the news element so people can connect with it. By doing this we motivated high profile people such as celebrities and politicians to start telling their stories organically.”
4. Be relentless on social media
“Quite simply, without social media the Windrush scandal wouldn’t have been exposed. One or two posts won’t break through the noise. Try to link your campaign to relevant conversations and keep talking about it. Each time there was a donation or a new piece of media coverage I shared it with a link to the GoFundMe campaign alongside the hashtag #WindrushJusticeFund.”
5. Keep your message simple
“Don’t have too many asks. Clarity helped motivate people to donate to the Windrush Justice Fund. However, initially many people thought it was the government’s responsibility, so we had to be very clear that we were raising funds to ensure victims had access to justice.”
Donations to the Windrush Justice Fund remain open and the fight to help the Windrush generation is ongoing.