The Open Way is Essex

Due to the passionate work of Refugee Welcome Dagenham, the Abo-Alhawa family were welcomed to Essex in March 2019. After two months, we have the pleasure to say that this Syrian family of five is settling well into life in Dagenham. The three children are now all in local schools and are thriving. Mum and Dad are working hard with their ESOL group to bring their English up to a level where they can find work and become self-sufficient. They are quickly becoming an integral part of the community in which they live and have embraced the community as part of their warm and loving family. For this path, they are assisted by a team of 20+ volunteers recruited from right across Essex and East London who helping this family to feel them at home.

 

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"You Are Welcome" - Family Arrives in Sutton

Guest blog by Gill Bonner

It is now just a week since we welcomed the Alhmaier family at Gatwick Airport and took them to their new home in Sutton. At Sutton Salvation Army Church, giving a warm welcome is what we're about. The outside of our building says 'You're Welcome' and we try to live this phrase out at every opportunity. Welcoming a new family, from a background unknown, is no different. We wanted the family to know how very, very welcome they were - to The Salvation Army, to Sutton, to the UK and it was important that all those in our church community could contribute.

On the day that our welcome banner was made, those attending our church service were invited to add their inked fingerprints to the words across the top...naturally 'YOU ARE WELCOME'. Regardless of our own backgrounds, race, situations our fingerprints symbolised the uniqueness of each one of us, uniting together as a community willing to receive and support a new family. We also asked that everyone, young and old, could draw around and cut out their hand print - a wave - to fill the banner will a visual 'hello' in a multitude of colours. Everyone was included and those who can't easily move around, or take part in the activity were helped by others. The whole church was buzzing and alive with the anticipation of being able to join together in something so significant. We couldn't all greet this new family physically at the airport, but by placing our own 'wave' on the banner we could indeed be a part of welcoming them and being present with them on the start of this very important journey.

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Nominations open for Community Sponsorship Awards 2019

Community Sponsorship of refugees is a wonderful thing.  And lots of dedicated people work incredibly hard on the scheme.  That’s why we believe that it is important to celebrate and recognise individuals, groups and families at our annual Community Sponsorship Awards.

The 2018 awards event was described by our parliamentary champion, Helen Hayes MP, as a ‘moving and joyful evening’ and this year’s event, kindly hosted by the Canadian Embassy in London, promises to another night to remember. 

You can now make your nominations in eight categories. It is a simple process and we are hoping that we will get lots of nominations from all over the country.

Click here to Nominate your Community Sponsorship Champions

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Promoting Community Sponsorship in Parliament

As part of this year’s Refugee Week (17th to 23rd June), Helen Hayes MP is hosting an event at the House of Commons to promote Community Sponsorship of Refugees among her fellow parliamentarians. 

The event will also call for resettlement of refugees to be extended beyond 2020 as part of the #ExtendtheWelcome campaign and for more refugees to receive a warm welcome in our communities.  The event is led by, and all speakers will be, refugees. 

Anyone connected to Community Sponsorship groups or interested in the scheme is welcome to attend. 

Please register via this link. It is vital to register - non-registered guests may be refused entry by security.

And please, do write to your MP and urge them to attend this important event. You can download a template letter here.

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New arrivals and new groups – Community Sponsorship grows across the UK

In the last couple of months there has been great progress in the growth of the Community Sponsorship across all parts of the British Isles.

A number of groups welcomed refugee families to their areas, including Corsham Sponsors Refugees which is the first Community Sponsorship Group in Wiltshire. A Syrian family arrived in this beautiful Cotswold town in mid-March and are settling in well.  Not far away, the group based around Reading Greyfriars church also welcomed a family in March and several groups in the Thames Valley and Chilterns area are moving forward. 

In the greater London area, families arrived and are now being supporting by Community Sponsorship groups, including in North Hackney, Dagenham and Peckham.  Speaking at a local gathering, the father of the Syrian family welcomed by Peckham Sponsors Refugees used a traditional Islamic phrase to thank members of group. “You are like brothers and sisters from another mother,” he said.

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Sponsorship in The Scotsman on Sunday

‘I describe the way our group works as being like the fable “stone soup”,’ Erica Brooks explains. “We all have something small that we can put into a pot and something wonderful comes out as a result.”

The “something wonderful” is Scotland’s first community sponsorship of a refugee family, who are due to arrive in Edinburgh next month directly from the Middle East – where they have fled their war-torn homeland of Syria.

Abstract from Jane Bradley, The Scotsman, Sunday 28th April 

This weekend, the Scotsman on Sunday visited Edinburgh Refugees Welcome - the first Community Sponsorship group in Scotland - as they prepare to welcome a family.  Read the article here

The Catholic Parishes Helping Refugees Rebuild Lives in UK

Dozens of Catholic parishes throughout the country have become involved in helping vulnerable refugees find sanctuary and rebuild their lives in the UK.

Of more than 160 groups in the UK that are involved in the government's Community Sponsorship Scheme, about a third, or 50, are Catholic parishes in England and Wales. And about a third of these parishes have already welcomed families.

Catholic News Journal, The Tablet, has followed their journey here.

Sponsored refugee opens his own restaurant in Manchester

Samir Hamyeh’s story should serve as an inspiration to refugees welcomed to Britain through Community Sponsorship.  Samir, a Syrian, arrived with his family in Flixton, East Manchester in November 2016.  The Hamyehs were only the second family to be sponsored and they were warmly welcomed by volunteers from St Monica’s Roman Catholic church. 

Both in Syria and later in Lebanon, Samir had worked in the catering industry, including running and owning his own restaurants. Within a few months of arriving in the UK, he was volunteering in a kitchen that served food to homeless people and destitute asylum seekers, and he went on to find paid jobs in local restaurants across Manchester.  But Samir’s dream was to open his own restaurant so that he could build a more secure future for his growing family. 

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"Community Sponsorship at it's Best" - Tynside Welcomes Launch

Written by Bekele Woyecha

I had the privilege of travelling to Tyneside on Saturday 23rd March to join the launch of Tyneside Welcomes. I thought it was a long journey on a weekend. Oh my God, it was worth it. It felt like I was among my extended family - Tyneside Welcomes. Amazing people gathered for a great cause. Folks doing something practical and worthwhile whilst enjoying themselves through the process. People of different generations gathered creating a real buzz and adding to the razzmatazz.  What else can we ask from Community Sponsorship?

I at times travel both around the UK and abroad; and there is a topic I raise when I meet friends and colleagues. It is nothing but about Community Sponsorship of refugees and what it means for me. What my role is in this and my passion for this great scheme and what I would have loved to achieve years and decades from now. For me, it is all about leaving a long-lasting legacy.

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BBC Documentary Follows Community Sponsorship

Guest blog by Anna Roderick

It was a boiling hot summer’s day. We’d come to Sidmouth to meet a BBC crew and we sheltered in the shade of some trees to discuss the day’s filming. The plan was to produce a 10 minute film about ABIDE, a community sponsorship group, and the Syrian refugee family it supports. We were starting with some footage of Hani, the dad, doing work experience with a local gardener. The setting, in the grounds of a manor house on cliffs above the sea, couldn’t have been more idyllic.

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"Where the Countryside Meets the Sea"

Hythe is a small, sleepy, seaside town on the Kent-Coast with a population of around 14,000. Whilst the town slogan of, ‘where the countryside meets the sea’ makes it a honeypot for retirees and tourists alike, its proximity to the English Channel also meant that from time to time the unfolding refugee crisis has been brought to its doorstep.

‘You can see Northern France from our beach’, reports Callum McKenna of Hythe Salvation Army. ‘This, along with scores of individuals making it through the Channel Tunnel to the Motorway Service station at the top of Hythe really brought the Migrant Crisis into focus for local residents, particularly during the increased media attention the issue received in 2015. Local churches, groups and individuals rallied together to collect clothing and toiletries for those just miles away from us in the so-called ‘Jungle’. There was a vigil for Alan Kurdi, the Syrian Toddler whose lifeless body washed up on the shores of Turkey. People began to volunteer and raise funds for a local charity working with unaccompanied minors. There was a real desire to respond to this crisis as a community. At the same time, there was a growing sense that a lot of these activities felt like putting plasters on a deep wound and that we wanted to do something that could make a lasting impact for those effected by the horrors we saw on our news screens in Syria.’

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'Life is good': Syrian family's new life in remote Welsh town

Photo Credit Richard Jones for the GuardianGuardian journalist Stephen Morris has written the latest in a series of articles following the new life of the Batak Family in Wales. The family were welcomed by Croeso Arberth community sponsorship group in 2017, with support from Citizens Cymru Wales.

Morris won an award at Community Sponsorship Awards 2018 for his fantastic championship of the scheme.

Read the article here

(Photograph: Richard Jones for the Guardian)

 

Grandfather to run Yorkshire Three Peaks for refugees

Veteren runner Chris Beesley from Settle celebrated his 67th birthday by taking on the Yorkshire Three Peaks.

In so doing, he has raised a whopping £1240 for ReSETTLEment Community Sponsorship group, to help bring a refugee family from Syria to come and live in Yorkshire.

The thought of people being forced and bombed out of their homes is abhorrent, and I asked myself, what can I do," he said.

"I can run and raise money so that a family from a refugee camp can be given the chance and all the help they will need to start a new life here in Settle”.

Read the full article in The Craven Herald

Click here to donate. To volunteer to help out with the group email: settle.refugee@gmail.com. 

IMPORTANT CHANGES TO APPLICATION PROCESS

The Home Office have introduced new Application Form for Community Sponsorship. 


This new form combines the previous Resettlement Plan template and Application Form into one document. This means that groups no longer need to submit a separate resettlement plan.

 

Download the new Application Form here.

Click here for guidance in how to complete it.

 

Don’t worry if your group have already started working on the old format (i.e. the resettlement plan + old application form), you don’t have to re-do it. The Home Office are still accepting the old format for several more months.

As always, our team are available to answer any questions, and very happy to visit your group should you need advice and support.

Contact us at: communitysponsorship@citizensuk.org. 

We look forward to working with you to bring many more refugee families to the UK in 2019!

Butetown Citizens Show Support for Refugee Family

Community sponsorship group Croeso Butetown have made local headlines for their efforts to resettle a refugee family in Wales.

The group were established by Citizens Cymru, and is a partnership of three institutions: St Mary’s Church, the South Wales Islamic Centre and Tabernacle Chapel. Their curry and quiz night, pictured here, raised £780, contributing towards their current total of over £8,000 for the project. They have submitted their application to the Home Office and are awaiting approval.

Click here to read the full article in InterCardiff.