Christine Majid has had an eventful political life.
Born in Leeds, she was trapped in Iran in 1978-9 with her Iranian doctor husband during the revolution which overthrew the US-backed Shah and installed a theocracy. She eventually escaped via Afghanistan, but not before she witnessed extreme brutality meted out by the Shah's secret police.
Later, back in England, she packed a rucksack at her Leeds home and set off to join the brave women of Greenham Common, living pretty rough during their attempts to get rid of Cruise missiles from the US-occupied base there. Her dad, an engineering worker, slipped a bottle of brandy into her bag to keep out the cold.
Today, back in Leeds, she heads a project assisting destitute asylum-seekers to avoid starvation, and trades unions in the city are helping her - an example of the movement in Yorkshire mobilising on behalf of vulnerable people, and supporting community action in the face of appalling official indifference.
Leeds today has an estimated 3,000 destitute asylum-seekers, victims of the policies of successive governments -both Labour and the Tory-led coalition - which seem to believe that inflicting suffering is the way to persuade refugees to return to the famine, repression, torture, or war they fled in the first place.
Their plight in Leeds is mirrored in major towns and cities across Britain.
Majid started her project 10 years ago, working from the attic of a leaky-roofed house in Harehills, a multicultural inner-city area of east Leeds.
Today the project is called Pafras - Positive Action For Refugees and Asylum Seekers. Its base is St Aidan's Church community centre in Harehills.
The project has had to drastically change the way it works, and the help it provides, as the appalling difficulties faced by refused asylum-seekers has deteriorated.
"Ten years ago it was more to do with integration, running English classes, dealing with housing problems," says Majid. "Then in 2004 there were huge changes in immigration legislation - cutbacks in legal aid. You couldn't get a solicitor to do an appeal against a refusal to stay. It was obvious where it was going. We saw that people were going to be made homeless. I had 70 asylum-seekers with their possessions in black bin-liners, who were evicted because they couldn't get an appeal. Seven of them attempted suicide. The legislation removed their right to work.
"I thought: 'How can we help these homeless people?' I had an old 2CV car. It didn't hold much. But we were working literally on the streets trying to look after them, taking food, and it was escalating."
It cost money. Majid managed to get a small grant from a fund to alleviate destitution and associated health problems. It helped.
But there were other problems. Anti-asylum racism was being whipped up by the right-wing press, and the message was being heard.
"It was difficult. I was struggling," says Majid.
That's when St Aidan's offered the community centre as a base. There her small group established a food kitchen, a collection point for distribution of essentials - food, toiletries, clothing - and a haven for hungry and destitute people.
In 2007 the Joseph Rowntree Trust carried out research into the effect of government policies towards people refused refuge in Britain. The trust chose Leeds as its case study. It found 2,000 people had been deliberately made destitute - homeless, jobless, penniless - to try to force them out of Britain. The number in the city has increased by half since then.
Pafras produces statistics showing the scale of its vital work. Last year 6,444 hungry people were given a hot meal at the food kitchen, and another 4,356 were given food parcels for their families. Pafras distributed 5,445 pieces of clothing. An additional 346 people turned up who were destitute, on top of those already being helped.
Funding was, and is, desperate - a third of the project's nine paid staff were lost due to government cuts.
But in late 2011 unions heard of the work of Pafras. They began asking Majid and her colleagues to speak at meetings, holding collections, some making donations. Leeds Trades Council activists mobilised.
"The trades council organised two benefit events for us. The first raised over £800," says Majid. "I went to the GMB to give a talk. The Communications Workers' Union, they gave us some money. My colleague spoke at a National Union of Teachers meeting. We spoke at a Public and Commercial Services union meeting."
Yorkshire and the Humber TUC donated food parcels. Help from the movement is slowly coming in, but more is desperately needed - funds and volunteers.
Yorkshire and the Humber TUC regional secretary Bill Adams says union support for Pafras shows how the labour movement is increasingly involved at the community level.
That, rather than the cost-cutting agenda of the Prime Minister, is what you call the Big Society.
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