Three years ago the war in Syria forced Ghassan and Siham to leave everything and flee to Bury, Greater Manchester, to start a new life. Bury offered them a place of safety and hope; somewhere they could raise their daughter Katrina in peace and give her a future. They worked hard to learn English and integrate and grew to love Bury and its people. The bustling market in Bury reminded them of markets back home in Hama and slowly a dream began to form. A dream of starting their own business and becoming independent - of making their own way and giving back to the community that had welcomed them.
Meanwhile, Bury resident Heidi Reiss decided to take on the challenge of community sponsorship. She began by making links to Syrians who lived locally. It was here that she met Siham and Ghassan, and learnt of their dream to open a food stall. Without hesitation, Heidi and community partners supported the couple to initiate a fundraising campaign, attend marketing classes, and develop a business plan. Just seven weeks later, "Falafels and more..." was launched last Saturday in Bury Market.Read more
We're delighted to announce that the Home Office will now pay up to 8 weeks of 'void costs' for empty housing.
Many community sponsorship groups have had to pay rent to keep a house empty while they wait for a family to arrive. Without the contribution of Housing Benefits, these costs - sometimes thousands of pounds - have been taken from the generous donations they worked so hard to fund-raise.
This is a fantastic win for Sponsor Refugees, community sponsorship groups, and our partners, who have challenged the government about these costs.Read more
Latest news from newsletter of Hampstead Churches Together:
After just over a year of hard work, the Hampstead Churches Community Sponsorship Group are overjoyed to announce that on 25th September we welcomed our first refugee family under the government’s Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme.
The process has been long and challenging and has involved at various ways some 200 parishioners have provided expertise or financial support.
Finding suitable property is London was probably the biggest challenge. Early on in the process, two generous landlords agreed to let their central London flat to the Family at the Housing Benefit rate.Read more
The Alamary Family
How would a family that had fled war torn Syria respond to life in a quiet rural part of England? In the case of the Alamary family the answer is: amazingly well.
They were warmly welcomed by the group in Georgeham in North Devon, but the key to success is the attitude of the Alamary family themselves.
They have rapidly moved through 3 levels of ESOL training from beginner to advanced.
Within 4 months of arriving, Mahmoud Alamary secured a job with a building firm who are supporting him through an apprenticeship to become a qualified electrician.
Khadija, who is the most wonderful cook, has not only offered warm and generous hospitality, but has taught others how to cook Syrian dishes and helped with the catering at local events.
The three children have settled into school well.
The family have also thrown themselves into English village life – taking part in everything from bell-ringing to beekeeping.
On top of all this, the Alamary family have supported other Syrian families who have settled in Devon providing both hospitality, encouragement, advice and support.
They are also exceptional advocates and supporters of the Community Sponsorship Scheme, speaking at local events, encouraging other sponsorship groups and advising prospective sponsors.Read more
Guest Blog by Sean Ryan, MBE, National Caritas Community Sponsorship Coordinator
On 12th June 2018, the Catholic parish of St Mary of the Assumption in Burnley became the second Salford parish to welcome a refugee family through sponsorship.
St Mary’s achieved this with a considerably smaller Sponsorship Group than most, in a comparatively deprived area, thanks to the leadership of one man, their Project Manager Frank McNamara MBE, a retired civil servant.
Because of Frank, the Group won over an initially circumspect Local Authority, raised all the necessary funds and partnered with Calico Housing Association to secure a lovely home in a quiet suburb of Burnley, all within the space of five months. The many agencies with whom Frank built such positive relationships have been unanimous in their praise for his outstanding qualities.
Sadly, Frank’s had to step down from the project due to ill-health, less than a month after the family arrived in Burnley. But this sponsorship is only happening because of the single-handed leadership, dogged determination, boundless stoicism, tireless relationship-building and exemplary conduct of Frank.Read more
Guest blog by Bob Goldsmith of Muswell Hill Methodist Church Sponsorship Group
As a member of the community sponsorship group attached to Muswell Hill Methodist Church in North London, I know a lot of remarkable people have made a big contribution to our work, but brothers Arun, 13, and Jasso, 2, have played a special part.
Arun helped paint, decorate and prepare the house for the family. Before the family arrived, he also collected warm clothes, trainers and sportswear for the teenage boys. He then travelled to Gatwick to meet the family and helped them on the way home, giving out water bottles, blankets, snacks and helium balloons.
Later Arun taught the older boys numbers and the names of fruit and vegetables in English, while the older Syrian boys taught him the Arabic equivalents. Most significantly, Arun enabled the Syrian boys to speak at a Citizens' Assembly before a large audience.Read more
Jim Estill has a strong claim to the single greatest refugee sponsor in the world.
Since 2015, he has sponsored more than 60 refugee families to come to his home town, Guelph in Ontario, Canada, where he is CEO of a major local business, Danby Appliances. Another 26 families are due to arrive in Guelph, thanks to Jim, before Christmas.
As well as devoting an enormous amount of time to this project, he employs many of the sponsored Syrians in his factory. He has also paid $1.5 million Canadian dollars from his own pocket to fund the sponsorships.
Jim is matter-of-fact about his amazing achievements. “I still don’t see what the big deal is. And I’m surprised more people don’t step up and do it”. He prefers private sponsorship to the government programme because, as he puts it, ‘you can’t hire friends’.Read more
Of course, everybody involved in community sponsorship really deserves an award for the great work they do. But the event at the Royal Society in London on October 2nd was a chance to celebrate the groups and individuals who the judges of the Community Sponsorship Awards felt deserved special recognition.
The top award, the equivalent of ‘Best Film’ at the Oscars, was for Group of the Year, honouring those groups which have already welcomed a refugee family to their neighbourhood. The group based around the Pickwell Foundation in Georgeham, North Devon and Croeso Arberth from Narberth in Pembrokeshire were both shortlisted. But the winner was Raynes Park Community Church from Merton in South London. As one of the people who nominated them put it: “This dynamic, pioneering and committed group deserve recognition for all they have done and continue to do for the development of community sponsorship in the UK.”Read more
The ceremony, held at The Royal Society in London, brought together 250 people, from 140 groups across the UK and special guests from North America. The awards were an opportunity to recognise the achievement of the quiet heroes of sponsorship who have been working hard in their communities to fund-raise, find homes, create language-learning plans, find all the basic essentials a refugee family would need, and plan to ensure that, when they arrive, there is a welcome committee of organised volunteers.
Guest blog by Tom Underwood, Raynes Park Community Church and Sponsor Refugees Ambassador
A year and a half ago Raynes Park Community Church became the second group in the country to welcome a Syrian refugee family through the Community Sponsorship Scheme.
As a Salvation Army church we have a long history of reaching out to the vulnerable so when our leaders first introduced us to the idea of Community Sponsorship we knew that this was definitely something that we wanted to do!
Before the family arrived the church worked together to complete the necessary paperwork for the Home Office, took part in safeguarding training, found out about Syrian culture and prepared the house for the refugee family. We formed a core group of twelve, including different skills from the church; a teacher who knew about school places, a retired couple with knowledge of the local area and parents of young families. The preparation was the start of a journey that has not only brought us closer together as a church community but has also introduced us to new friends in the wider community.Read more
Peckham Sponsors Refugees has hit the local headlines, with features in Southwark News and South London Press. The group was established by 19 year old Bea Forrester during her 'gap year' after school. Over 100 residents attended their first meeting - a record turn out. The group have now submitted their application, and expect to welcome a family in the coming months.
Follow their story in:
Southwark News - 25th January 2018. pg. 14
Southwark News - 6th August 2018
South London Press & Mercury - 17th August 2018
On 7th May we launched nominations for the Community Sponsorship Awards 2018. It was a delight to receive so many inspiring examples of sponsorship from across the UK. We want to extend our heartfelt thanks to all those who took time to nominate their heroines and heroes of Community Sponsorship of Refugees.
With over 150 nominations, our judges had a very a tough decision to make. We are thrilled to announce the shortlisted nominees.Read more
The Welcome Committee, a group of London-based volunteers, are set to welcome a Syrian refugee family to Lambeth in a few weeks time.
They are the first work-based community sponsorship group in the UK to receive Home Office approval, having developed from a group of pioneering colleagues from Amnesty International, with support from Migrants Organise.
Abby Robinson, co-founding member of the Welcome Committee says, “In just over a year, we have grown from what started out as a room full of strangers, into a wonderfully supportive community group full of creativity, passion and determination. The group has managed to exceed fundraising targets, has secured accommodation, pondered ethical dilemmas, learned new skills, and through learning about the journey that refugees face in London, has developed a new found understanding of the challenges that our communities face as a whole.’’
Sponsor Refugees Director Tim Finch has written a guest blog for Greenbelt Festival on his own path to Community Sponsorship.
Tim Finch and Sponsor Refugees will hold workshops on Community Sponsorship of Refugees at this year's Greenbelt Festival, 24th - 27th August. Join us to find out how you can transform the life of a refugee and your own community via community sponsorship groups
To read Tim's full guest blog click here.
Ministers responsible for immigration from Canada, the United Kingdom, Spain, Argentina, Ireland, and New Zealand have issued a statement fully endorsing the concept of community-based refugee sponsorship.
Caroline Nokes MP, British Minister of State for Immigration, said, "Refugee resettlement through community sponsorship is made possible by the dedication, hard work and compassion of community groups across the UK... We are pleased to be working with Canada and others to share our experience of community sponsorship and support more countries who want to implement community-led refugee resettlement programmes."