From Northern Lebanon to North West London - how a Syrian family embraced Hampstead wholeheartedly

In September 2019, the Welcome Syrian Families group (WSF) in Hampstead welcomed a family of 4. Below a deeply heartening update on the family’s astounding commitment to life in North West London just before the lockdown was imposed. 

Having arrived in London with no English, no friends and only a couple of suitcases between them, six months in, the family now seems well ensconced in Hampstead.

 

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We Need You! Take Part in Refugee Week

As Refugee Week (15th-21st June 2020) approaches, Reset, Charis and Sponsor Refugees are calling for new groups to ‘Welcome a Newcomer’ through Community Sponsorship.

The UN estimates that there are 1.4 million refugees needing resettlement across the world, and as a result of the global pandemic there is a growing backlog of refugees from the Syrian conflict who are languishing in refugee camps. The UK Government’s Community Sponsorship Scheme allows ordinary people to bring a refugee family to live in their community, and support them to integrate. Every time a group commits to Community Sponsorship, another vulnerable refugee family gets the opportunity to rebuild their lives in the UK.

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Exciting news about Sponsor Refugees from Citizens UK

Dear Friend, 

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.  

 

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Overcoming adversity with goals: How Mohammad became merit topscorer at school

The community sponsorship journey is always a story of how two remote paths converge, of dreams, aspirations, compassion and solidarity - and perhaps destiny - that culminate in lives intertwined, at least for a period. They often run from Syria, sometimes through Jordan or Turkey, to a town or city in the United Kingdom.

For Mohammad Alsamadi, the story trails from Syria to Cardiff, not just the capital of Wales but the birthplace of his biggest idol, Gareth Bale. After years spent in a Jordanian refugee camp with his immediate family, Mohammad arrived in 2019. 

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Beyond Resettlement: How Refugee Sponsorship Transforms Communities

When Community Sponsorship of refugees took off in Canada in 1978, it rested upon the philosophy that the collective journey of resettlement would foster vibrant communities of zestful diversity and crush the anti-migrant sentiments that had creeped up on many communities over the years. By pulling community members from the margins to the centre of the sponsorship project through fundraising and general information sharing, the sense of ownership and commitment would stifle any objections to outsiders in the neighbourhood. 

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Education in Resettlement: A Case Study From Cornwall

In the resettlement of a refugee family, education plays a key role in the children's integration process. For most, school is where we develop our deepest bonds and nurture our most precious friendships. Often, it’s where we come to understand who we are. 

In more technical terms, we perfect the conjugations of this foreign language, explore culture through daily interactions and observations and absorb the curriculum that secures a prosperous future.

Below, Ellie Stacey shares her experience with education in resettling two refugee families in Cornwall. 

 

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What Integration Means Under Resettlement

In the small circle of civic society that is community sponsorship groups, there is a list of common denominators, of obstacles to be fought and wins to be celebrated. They include the forming of groups, the raising of funds, sending applications, securing housing, navigating benefits and a range of other tasks that are slowly but steadily being ticked off. 

But in the months that follow the grand day of arrival at the airport where group efforts culminate, emotions peak and life seems to come together, reality knocks gently but firmly on the door and asks to be dealt with. 

What presents itself on the other side is often much less tangible and more complex than the somewhat stringent steps required to obtain the Home Office’s approval and ultimately getting the family on the plane. 

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Resources To Ease Isolation For Resettled Families

In its very essence, community hinges on personal interactions to irrigate an ever-expanding web of social networks. We meet, talk, discuss, reflect and action so that eventually, we can change the world or at least strengthen our response to it. 

In the past few weeks, the world has changed but abruptly so, without our consent, and altered not only the way we work but fundamentally changed the way we are together. However technically inept we may feel, virtual meeting rooms are now where we will get things done for the foreseeable future. 

Fortunately, we have witnessed an extraordinary effort from community groups to innovate and share resources, tips, tools and ideas to make life a little easier for the families they have sponsored. 

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Responding To COVID-19: Advice and Guidance For Community Sponsorship Groups

To Our Community Sponsors,

At this time of unprecedented upheaval, we hope that you, your Sponsor Group, and your resettled family are all keeping safe and well.

While times may be tough and challenging, they also present a unique opportunity to show kindness, compassion and determination. So we want to let you know that we are here to help you when needed. 

To ensure a pragmatic approach to this highly complex situation, we will guide you through the most important steps of the sponsorship journey and how to best weather the storm in each of them. 

 

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Will 2020 Be The Year Of Welcomes?

On the 28th of January 2020, Louth Welcomes Refugees welcomed a family who had traveled all the way from Jordan to Birmingham. Despite slight grogginess, tired eyes and the occasional yawn, the excitement was obvious and the family has had a phenomenal start to life in the UK. 

West End Welcomes joined the January high when the group welcomed a family to central London for the first time. Just a few weeks later, Haddenham Syrian Family Project had the pleasure of welcoming a family to Buckinghamshire. A great start to the year indeed! 

In many ways, the day the family arrives at the airport is the ultimate high point of the journey of  Community Sponsorship. For some groups, the thrill of meeting the family and watching them embrace life in the UK is so immense, they embark on yet another round of Sponsorship. 

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Welcome a Family this Christmas

Everyone involved in Community Sponsorship of refugees finds it a rewarding and positive experience which they would love others to share in., This is why Sponsor Refugees is launching a social media campaign this Christmas in which groups who have already welcomed a family or are well on their way to doing so send a message to others encouraging them to consider doing a Community Sponsorship themselves. 

Groups from around the country are taking part, including Old Swan Welcomes in Liverpool.  In their message this group, from a relatively deprived part of Liverpool and with members from all faiths and none, said: “We’ve loved welcoming our family from Syria to our neighbourhood.  We urge anyone who is concerned about the plight of refugees to consider starting a Community Sponsorship Group.  We promise it will be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life!”

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New Arrivals Round off a Great Year for Extension of Community Sponsorship

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

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Sharing in the Joy of a Big Birthday for a Little Girl

Blog from Tim Finch

One of the treats of being in a Community Sponsorship group is sharing significant moments with the refugee family the group has welcomed.  Groups around the country have been included in many joyous events such as new babies being born, exams being passed and jobs secured.

In my own group in Peckham, the youngest member of the Al Shaabin family – little Celen – recently celebrated her 3rd birthday.  She is the daughter of parents Mohammed and Duaa, who share the house with Mohammed’s parents, and Celen’s grandparents, Hasan and Khiloud.  Mohammed’s three brothers, Lutfi, Eslam and Zaen also live in the house.

It was clear weeks ahead of the big day that Mohammed and Duaa wanted to mark this birthday in a special way.  For Celen’s 2nd birthday, in November 2018, the whole family were living in a precarious and dangerous situation in Jordan, hoping they would soon be resettled, but with little to celebrate.  Spool forward a year, and they, their family and their young daughter, were living in safety and security in South East London, facing many difficulties yes, but with hope for the future. 

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"So we have new neighbours"

Blog written by Alison Lockyer, South Leicestershire Community Sponsorship Group

“What days do you have water?” Amneh politely asks, as if it’s as normal as an enquiring about when to put out the bins.


She is 21, pale after having set off at 1 am this morning from Jordan via Istanbul to Birmingham with her husband and 2 children, but still going nearly 19 hours later and having seen me run the kitchen tap, realised that today was definitely a ‘water day’ and wanted to get a load on !

Wind back to a conversation probably now coming up to 2 years ago, when my husband and I decided to offer accommodation, a converted coach house that is now empty, to a refugee family from Syria, but where do we start ? A well connected medical colleague gives me a London charity contact, but it seems that despite what we see and read about all of Europe taking in refugees, the UK has no easily visible process for us to simply hand over the place.

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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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