Supporting refugees - our achievements
With a fourth family now settling into life in the Sherborne area, we have been reflecting on our achievements since Shares was set up in 2015. We’re very grateful to the many local people and organisations who have helped us support refugees locally. So what have we achieved over the past 3 years?
Identifying and preparing housing for resettled refugees
·Working with the local community we have identified 4 properties which have been agreed by Dorset County Council as suitable for refugees arriving in Dorset under the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement (VPR) scheme. As a result there are now 4 Syrian families living in the Sherborne area
· We helped to furnish the properties and provide household items for the resettled families, by purchasing items using donations from the public, such as TV licenses and equipment to enable wifi, promoting needs locally and securing items from local businesses and individuals including furniture, televisions, food and bicycles
Promoting the need for volunteering and bringing together a network of volunteers to support the resettled refugees
· Several meetings for new and potential volunteers have been organised
· Over 60 people have come to us expressing an interest in volunteering
· Many of these are now helping the resettled families through Dorset County Council as befrienders or with English learning.
· Other volunteers have helped Shares directly with tasks ranging from preparing food for events, to photography, helping with schools talks, and designing our leaflet
Raising funds to support resettled families
· We have encouraged individual donations via our website and at events, and have raised funds to directly to support the families
· We secured a grant from Healthwatch Dorset for DCC’s befrienders to organise summer outings for the resettled families
Giving talks and presentations about the issues relating to refugees and those seeking asylum
· We have given talks and taken part in assemblies with pupils at schools including Sherborne Primary, Abbey Primary, the Gryphon and Leweston.
· We have given talks and presentations to a number of community organisations and networks including the Sherborne Catholic Church, Blandford Diocese, the Dorset Race Equality Council, Dorset Arts Week and the Sherborne Rotary Club
· Discussions with Sherborne Town Council resulted in them issuing a statement saying ‘Sherborne Town Council offers its wholehearted support to the work of Shares’
Running educational community events
· We held a major awareness-raising event at the Gryphon School in April 2018, attended by around 230 people who came to listen to Syrian speakers, hear about the Syrian resettlement scheme in Dorset, and sample Syrian-style food (funded with grants totalling £700 from the South West Foundation, Sherborne Town Council and DCC)
· An event held at the Cheap St Church in Spring 2017 about the refugee situation and the Syrian resettlement programme attracted over 100 people. An exhibition of art by Syrian children in refugee camps in Lebanon – organised by the charity ‘From Syria with Love’ went alongside this event, running in the church for a week
· Other events have included those about volunteering in Calais, an informal Arabic lesson for volunteers and involvement in a theatre/folk production at the Octagon theatre in Yeovil about exile and migration.
Raising awareness through social and local media
· We set up a Facebook page and regularly share information about Shares activities and other refugee news
· We have developed and run the website www.sherbornearearefugeesupport.org.uk
· We have built a database of over 100 people who are interested in our work and send out regular electronic newsletters
· We produced a leaflet about the work of Shares and have distributed copies at many events and through churches and other local organisations
· Coverage of our work to local media has included front page stories in the Western Gazette and online, which probably resulted in the first property being made available, and two features in the Sherborne Times
· 5 interviews have gone out on Abbey 104FM
The collection of aid for distribution by RAFT
· In addition, we have worked with volunteers from Cheap Street Church, supporting and helping to co-ordinate the voluntary collection, sorting and delivery of clothing and other aid for refugees overseas and in the UK. The majority of this aid is distributed via our partner organisation Refugee Aid from Taunton (RAFT).
· A collection point for the community to bring in clothing and other donations has been set up at Cheap Street Church, and volunteers are there on 5 mornings a week to receive it
· A rota of volunteers has transported over 120 car and van loads of clothing and donations from the local community to our partner organisation Refugee Aid from Taunton (RAFT)