As 2019 comes to a close, there are refugee families being supported by volunteers in Community Sponsorship groups in all parts of the United Kingdom. One of the most recent families to arrive, in early December, were welcomed by the Falmouth and Penryn Welcome Refugees project. This is the second group from Cornwall to sponsor a family, after the trail blazing group in Bude, and through their action they have extended Community Sponsorship even further South and West in the British Isles.
At the other end of the country, Refugee Sponsorship Edinburgh recently celebrated having their family with them for six months and there is another group in Edinburgh, based around the local Hillsong church, which is in the pipeline. A Hillsong group is also behind the first arrival of a refugee family through community sponsorship in the North East, in Newcastle.
Meanwhile, more recently, the ReSETTLEMENT group, in Settle in the Yorkshire Dales, became the first group in Yorkshire to welcome a family. This is good news for the family concerned and a great experience for the individual group, but important in a wider sense too, because experience shows that once one Community Sponsorship group shows it can be welcome and support a family other people in the area feel emboldened to give it try.
A little further South, in November, the South Leicestershire Community Sponsorship group in Market Harborough became the first group in their county to welcome a family. We are reliably informed they did not wear their 1980s fancy dress outfits, which they donned for a fundraiser, to the airport!
Meanwhile, over in Lincolnshire the group in Louth has received full approval from the Home Office.
The ‘hot spots’ of the North West, the South West, London and Wales continue to see new groups starting all the time. There is a cluster of exciting developments in Hampshire and a number of groups getting started in Birmingham. All of this means that more than 400 vulnerable refugees are now rebuilding their lives in safety and security thanks to the efforts of Community Sponsorship groups up and down this country – and in total, more than 200 groups, with an estimated 5,000 volunteer members, involved in some way in this growing movement.
Finally, we mustn’t forget the island of Ireland, both North and South. The first Community Sponsorship group in the North, in Whitehead near Belfast, has been supporting a lovely family since September.
Meanwhile, the pilot Community Sponsorship pilot in the Republic of Ireland was last month converted into a full programme with an announcement from the Irish Minister of State at the Global Refugee Sponsorship Initiative Summit in Cork.