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.”
The award for New Group of the Year was shared by the Al Rayan Bank Staff group and Herne Hill Welcomes Refugees. Al Rayan is a pioneering refugee sponsorship in the Muslim community in Birmingham and is showing that groups of employees can form effective groups. Herne Hill is one of the most energetic and high-profile groups in the country and ran a highly effective campaign which found 3 properties for sponsored refugee families in a high-cost area. Corsham Sponsors Refugees was the runner up in this category.
There were also joint winners in the Volunteer of the Year category: Khairunissa Dhala, of the Welcome Committee in London and Lubna Akbar of Refugee Sponsorship Edinburgh. Both were nominated by colleagues for their tireless work and enthusiasm. Jeni McCaughey of Northern Ireland’s pioneer Community Sponsorship group, Small World in Whitehead near Belfast, was the runner-up.
The Champion of the Year – awarded for doing exceptional work to promote and support Community Sponsorship – was Steven Morris from the Guardian who was the first national journalist to write major pieces on the initiative. The runners up were Migrant Organise. a long running refugee and migrant organisation which embraced community sponsorship from its inception.
The Local Authority of the Year award went to Lambeth Council, in particular its resettlement lead Simon Sandberg. Alistair Dinnie from Edinburgh City Council and the team at Pembrokeshire County Council were runners-up. All have backed community sponsorship with enthusiasm and provided invaluable help and support to groups in their areas. As have the recipients of the Judges Special Awards, Alison Bacon of the North West Strategic Migration Partnership and John Delahunty of the Innisfree Housing Association.
A special International Award was presented by the Global Refugee Sponsorship Initiative, based in Canada, to the British government and its civil society partners in recognition of the UK’s pioneer work on refugee sponsorship. The award was presented by Jennifer Bond of the Refugee Hub and Gregory Maniatis from the Open Society Foundation. In a short speech of acceptance, Paul Morrison, Director of Resettlement, Asylum Support and Integration at the Home Office, said community sponsorship was the best project he had worked on in 20 years in the civil service.
Don't worry if you missed the awards - you can watch the ceremony in full here
And take a look at our photo gallery from the event here