It has been a big week for Sponsor Refugees! The trustees of Citizens UK have this week published a review of our governance – and the good news is that Sponsor Refugees will remain a core project of Citizens UK. It is a massive vote of confidence in our work, and means we can get on with our exciting plans to grow the number of community sponsors in 2020.
On that note, congratulations to Croeso Butetown, West Hampstead Welcomes, Refugees Welcome Wolverton, Cotham and Redland Welcome, Southend Community Sponsorship Group and Chelmsford Community Sponsorship who have all hit important milestones this month. We’re hoping to use the Lockdown to build up a bank of sponsors who are ready to start resettlement as soon as the scheme is reopened – and we know that 1 Family Cardiff, Croeso Menai, Wendover Refugee Assistance Project, Waltham Forest Community Sponsor Partnership, and Love: Refugees in South West London are already poised for the Lockdown to lift.
Earlier this year the Sponsor Refugees team developed a new strategy for our work. Now that it has been endorsed by Citizens UK’s trustees, we can share some of the exciting highlights – and ask for your help:
- Recruit a New Sponsor in Refugee Week: Following on from one of our Friday ‘Lunch and Learn’ Zoom calls, we’ll be working with Community Sponsorship Groups around the country during Refugee Week (15th-21st June) to run ‘local’ online events that replicate the successful model used by Charis to recruit new community sponsors in Devon. It’s a simple idea – that the best people to recruit other sponsors are those who are already doing it, and by bringing them together to hear the stories of refugee families, sponsorship groups and other local stakeholders, we can spread the good news. We’ve already got people in West Wales, Bristol and London up for the challenge – contact [email protected] if you are up for joining in and we’ll help you work out how to run your own Refugee Week online gathering. We’ll be producing a planning toolkit on May 29th.
- Explore our Application Portal and new Lead Sponsor offer – we’re going to be making it simpler and easier for groups to apply as Community Sponsorship Groups with Citizens UK as Lead Sponsor. We’re just piloting the portal – if you’d like to try it out then contact [email protected]. Everyone else, watch this space for the launch.
- Save the Date for the Sponsor Refugees Community Sponsorship Awards: October 12th – the Community Sponsorship Awards are going to be very different this year! Who knows whether we’ll be allowed to travel or whether we’ll still be socially distancing in the autumn? What we do know is that October 12th is when this year’s Community Sponsorship Awards will take place – so save the date! They will be less glitzy than last year (they may even have to happen online) but they are more needed than ever to celebrate, inspire and encourage a growing network of community sponsors in the UK. ‘Outstanding Refugee Contribution to Fighting COVID-19’? ‘Most Imaginative Use of a Rental Property in Lockdown’? Tell us which categories you think we should include by emailing [email protected] by May 5th.
- 25,000 by 2025 – Campaign for the Future of Community Sponsorship and Refugee Resettlement - this autumn we will be recognising the contribution of civil society to the success of the Refugees Welcome movement, five years on from the UK’s commitment to resettle 20,000 refugees. We’ll be galvanising ourselves for action to campaign for another 25,000 refugees to be resettled by 2025, calling for improvements to the Community Sponsorship scheme (such as ‘naming’ of refugees), and encouraging the tens of thousands of people who were part of the Refugees Welcome movement to take up the community sponsorship challenge;
- Join the Sponsor Refugees Advisory Team – following our governance review, we are revamping the Advisory Team that helps to guide the Sponsor Refugees staff in their work. The new body will be co-chaired by a Citizens UK trustee and a Community Sponsor, and will consist of representatives from four categories: local Community Sponsorship Groups; partner organisations and experts who can help us address weaknesses and enable us to grow; external organisations in the community sponsorship and refugee sector; and refugees themselves. Meetings will be quarterly. If you would be interested in joining the Sponsor Refugees Advisory Team then please contact [email protected] by 25th June.
As part of the transition informed by departing Sponsor Refugees Director Tim Finch in January, the Sponsor Refugees staff team has been reshaped to better fit its mission. A leaner and nimbler staff team, with a greater ability to support local groups, will tap into the existing communications, fundraising and operational functions within Citizens UK. Hannah Feldman has been promoted to Senior Project Manager (responsible for supporting Community Sponsorship Groups through the application and resettlement process), alongside Bekele Woyecha as Senior Projects Manager (responsible for recruiting new groups). Kimie Frengler is a new addition as Projects Officer, boosting the team’s administrative capacity. Jonathan Cox, Citizens UK’s Deputy Director and the Lead Sponsor for numerous groups in Wales and the West of England, takes on the strategic leadership of the project.
We look forward to working with you all to growing the number of community sponsorship groups over the coming year!
The Sponsor Refugees Team