A Global Response to a Global Crisis

Cork in Ireland welcomed Global Champions that gathered for the Community Sponsorship Champions Summit, that took place from 13-15 November 2019. The Community Sponsorship Champions Summit, which was organised by the Global Refugee Sponsorship Initiative in cooperation with Irish partners has been a rejuvenating, revitalising and equally thought provoking event.

The launch of the Community Sponsorship Ireland from pilot to full programme was the culmination of a 3 days long summit, which brought opportunities to share, learn and take stock. Opportunity to see the depth and breadth of work that has been done in countries where Community Sponsorship has been around for some time. But also, opportunity for those who are exploring the scheme.

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Our Journey through Community Sponsorship

By Jeni McAughey, chair of Whitehead Small World Group - the first Community Sponsorship group in Northern Ireland. Small World Group welcomed a family in September 2019.

I wonder if articles in the Guardian should carry a health warning; they can change your life! I read such an article in the summer of 2017 about a community in Wales welcoming a Syrian refugee family under the Community Sponsorship scheme. I had been feeling for a long time that I would really like to do something practical like this but had no idea where to start. Fortunately, the Citizens UK contact details were at the end of the article and I contacted them a few days later. Tim Finch outlined what was involved in the scheme and it seemed do-able!

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An (Inter)National Get-Together

We are part of a national and global movement. There are Community Sponsorship groups in every region of the United Kingdom. And the world is watching us as refugee sponsorship spreads across the globe from New Zealand to Ireland, Argentina to Spain.

On October 8th, 80 people involved in Community Sponsorship gathered in Westminster for an (Inter)national get-together. We came from all four nations of the UK, and were joined by guests from Europe, the Middle East and North America. We shared fellowship, networking, advice – and of course, a little politics. 

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Meet the Winners of the Community Sponsorship Awards 2019

Copywright Ian BrodieFrom leafy Buckinghamshire to inner city Liverpool, from the North coast of Cornwall to the North Coast of Wales, from Edinburgh to Taunton, from the Yorkshire Dales to London, from rural Lincolnshire to urban Birmingham… winners and runners up in the Community Sponsorship Awards came from far and wide.  

The winner of the big prize, Community Sponsorship Group of the Year, went to Bude Refugee Support Group, with the runners up being Croeso Abergwaun in Fishguard, Wales and the Welcome Committee in London.  Ellie Stacey from the Bude Group, which has sponsored two families so far and helped set up another Cornish group in Falmouth, agreed that once people catch the sponsorship bug it is infectious.

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Newcomers at the Heart of Awards Ceremony

At the heart of community sponsorship is the notion that sponsors and refugees are joint partners in a shared enterprise.  Sponsorship is an activity we do with our new neighbours, not to them. So, it was appropriate that refugees were front and centre of the Awards ceremony this year.

Hani Arnaout, who was welcomed with his family to Ottery St Mary in Devon by the Abide Community Sponsorship group two years ago, acted as the co-host of the event with BBC broadcaster Claudia Hammond.

He also played with musicians Sean Ryan and Dylan Owen in a moving and inspiring performance that kicked off the evening.

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The Highlights of Community Sponsorship Awards 2019

The Community Sponsorship Awards celebrates special achievements, but it is not really about the winners. Rather it is an opportunity to bring the sponsorship family together for mutual celebration of this wonderful scheme to welcome refugees to the UK. 

The event was held at Canada House on Trafalgar Square. Our host was the Canadian High Commmissioner Her Excellency Janice Charette seen here with the organiser of the event, Sponsor Refugee’s Bekele Woyecha, resplendent in Ethiopian national dress.

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Meet the Shortlisted Nominees of Community Sponsorship Awards 2019

Our esteemed judges were hosted at the House of Commons by Helen Hayes MP, to decide the shortlist and winners of the Community Sponsorship Awards 2019. They certainly had a difficult job to do, as we received hundreds of nominations from across the UK. Thanks to all who took the time to nominate your CS heroines and heroes.

Rossella Pagliuchi-Lor, head of UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency's UK office, said, "We had a very large number of excellent nominations. Very, very difficult job in deciding on winners.  I think we had essentially just a very long list of winners". 


Meet our Shortlisted Nominees

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New Arrivals and New Groups – Community Sponsorship across the UK

The last few months has been another busy one for the Community Sponsorship movement, with plenty of new groups starting up, applications going in and – most importantly – refugee families being welcomed. 

Up in Scotland, the first Community Sponsorship Group north of the border, Refugee Sponsorship Edinburgh welcomed a Syrian family of six in May. Meanwhile, the first Community Sponsorship Group in Northern Ireland, Small World in Whitehead, has received full approval from the Home Office and will welcome a family in early September.  As ever, there has been lots of activity in Wales with the first group in the North of Wales, Croeso Menai, based in Anglesey close to putting in their application after a busy few months of events.

Great news in Liverpool, with the first Community Sponsorship group in the city, welcoming their family in early June.  Old Swan Welcomes was established February 2018 and is led by Sam Tomlin and the Salvation Army Stoneycroft Church. It is a hugely diverse group involving members of the Syrian diaspora, other Arabic speakers, as well as Scousers, and new comers. The group has members from most Christian denominations, both Western and Eastern (Coptic and Eastern Rite Catholic) as well as Muslims, Jewish volunteers from the local Reform Synagogue, and members who are active humanists.

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Secondary State School to Sponsor a Family

Fundraising for refugees has taken off in Merton with students hoping to become the first group of state schools to take part in the government scheme community sponsorship.

St Mark’s Church of England Academy in Mitcham Eastfields has teamed up with Merton Citizens, Wimbledon College and Rutlish School to raise £9,000 needed to welcome a refugee family from an area of conflict into their community.

Head of the English as an Additional Language department at St Mark’s Nina Ahmad said: “To fundraise for someone who lives elsewhere is one thing, but to actually see the family, and for that family to then hopefully become involved in the school is quite powerful.”

St Mark’s suggested the scheme to other schools and is leading fundraising events, having raised over £1,000 through a multi-cultural evening alone with a crowd of 150 parents. 


Evaluation of Community Sponsorship in the UK

Between January 2017 and January 2019, a team of researchers from IRiS at University of Birmingham conducted 112 interviews with refugees, CS volunteers and thought leaders. Their evaluation uncovers both the long-lasting positive impact of the scheme, and the challenges faced by groups and resettled families.

You can read their full report here.

Executive Summaries and practical tips from their research are available here.

Professor Reyes Soto has reflected on her time meeting Community Sponsorship "super volunteers" here.

And, Professor Phillmore has written a blog about their research here

Rescued Refugee Seeks to Save Others

Abstract from "Virtuous circle: rescued refugee seeks to save others"

It was the kindness of strangers that propelled single mother Dalya to a new life in London - now the Iraqi refugee wants to help sponsor a fleeing family of her own.

Dalya knows how alien it feels to land in a distant country, knowing nobody, and reckons one good turn deserves another.

"I want to help because I lived a horrible and hard life. I know what it feels like when people first arrive here. If they need a friend, I can be a friend. I can help with anything," the 34-year-old told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.


Refugee Welcome Schools

Citizens UK has joined forces with NASUWT to recognise the important role that schools play in refugees integrate into the local community and in helping the community to welcome refugees. 


Schools are crucial places of welcome, orientation and integration for refugee families, and also play a central role in the growing number of Community Sponsorship schemes around the country.  


Refugee Welcome Schools is an accreditation scheme to recognise schools that have made a commitment to welcome refugees in their institution and community, educate all their pupils and staff about the importance of refugee protection over the course of a year, and participate in campaigns to improve the lives of refugees in the UK.  The scheme is run by Citizens UK in partnership with the NASUWT.


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Meet The 2019 Community Sponsorship Awards Judges

CS Awards judges

Meet the 2019 Community Sponsorship Awards judges which include leading figures in the Refugee, Migrants and humanitarian sector, academia, businesses and the UK parliament.





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Community Sponsorship Spreads Across the Globe

Amnesty International have shone a light on the spread of Community Sponsorship across the globe. The scheme started in Canada 40 years ago, and since 2014 has been introduced to Argentina, Ireland, Spain, and New Zealand, and of course, in the UK. There are also discussions to introduce the scheme in United States and Australia.

On this 40 year anniversary of the scheme, the Human Rights charity interviewed Rahaf, who was sponsored to resettle to North London with her husband and two children.

"I want to thank my sponsors from the bottom of my heart", she said. "They’ve done so much for us. They’ve taught us about the British way of life, the language, as well as how to get from one place to another. There are many people who still need help in Syria – the war isn’t over and it’s still not safe to return, so it’s important to continue supporting others".

John Barker, who is supporting Rahaf and her family, told the charity, "It’s so important to support people who have been forced to flee their countries. People are living in terrible conditions – the UK is a wealthy country and we should be doing far more to help. Talking to other sponsors, it’s clear that you get much more out of the scheme than [what] you put in".

Read the full article here.



Muslims and Christians Welcoming Together

Mosques in North-East London with Churches and Christian groups are working together to sponsor a Syrian refugee family who arrived this week to start their new life in the UK.

The Redbridge Community Sponsorship project – a partnership between South Woodford Mosque, Balfour Road Mosque, Ilford Methodist Church, Ilford Salvation Army, St. Thomas of Canterbury RC Church and Wanstead Quakers – was initially formed in 2017. They faced enormous challenges in finding affordable accommodation for the family, but through great perseverance have been able to find a home.

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