Dear Supporters Welcome to the HWSF February update. HWSF are now a formally constituted organisation. A copy of our constitution is on our website. We have elected a committee who are:
Irene Austin: Chair
Catherine Henderson: Vice Chair
Katie Seaton: Membership Secretary
Vicky Woodcraft: Secretary
Mick Haytor: Interim Treasurer
Other posts: Mione Goldspink (Co-ordinator Bishops Stortford), Veronica Raymond (Co-ordinator North Herts), Kimberley Brough (IT), and Samah Alrahabi (Advisor and link with Syrian Community).
Thank you to those who attended our event in St Albans, we were delighted to see so many people and it shows the level of support for welcoming Syrian families. I have attached the comments and thoughts that people contributed in our brief discussion session. One of the things to emerge from the feedback and the speakers at the event, is the need to prepare the community and particularly schools for welcoming families
So are we any nearer to welcoming Syrian families in Hertfordshire? The answer is YES! The Refugee Council have appointed a worker who will be starting next Tuesday and eight councils will be working with her. I have attached the document which shows how the council works with voluntary groups to support the families. Our organisations will need to be ready. Broxbourne is not participating in the scheme and Dacorum will organise their own support.
We have been to a meeting in Stevenage and they are expecting two families within the next three weeks. Exciting news. The Refugee council worker will be initially based in Stevenage and we have been told that they are recruiting two further workers to work across Hertfordshire.
HWSF will be meeting Una Barry from the Refugee Council and we hope the new worker on the 9th March. at St Albans District Council. We are not yet sure of the timescale for other councils receiving families but think that Watford are close behind and have seen something in the local paper in St Albans saying they are hoping to receive a family by the end of March.
Thank you to those who have completed the 'How you can help' form and we now have over 60 forms completed and are collating the information. From the immediate results we are aware there are still certain areas where we do not have that many volunteers yet, North and West Herts but I am sure this will change. I am aware that others have offered help without completing the forms and we are happy for the moment to accept an email from people just telling us what help they feel they can offer but prefer to have the form completed if you can. It is not set in stone and we do not need all the detail.
We have seen that people would like us to hold a volunteer tutor training course and whilst we have trained teachers willing to help, we may well need volunteer tutors to provide additional 1:1 provision for those not able to access ESOL classes (which are paid for under the scheme). We are therefore hoping to run a 6 session training course. We want to hold this in a central location in Hertfordshire and it will probably be held on a Saturday morning but alternate Saturdays. We are therefore looking for a location and will also need a Volunteer Tutor Co-ordinator to support the scheme. Please let us know if your organisation is able to offer us a location and if you or anyone you know is willing to be part of the Volunteer Tutor Co-ordinator team.
We are also looking to set up a fundraising committee so let us know if you are able to help us with this. We will need funding for volunteers to cover travel expenses, resources if we run a volunteer tutor training course and additional items for the families.
From the meeting in Stevenage, they have collated a list of things they will need (list attached) and whilst they have money for the basics it does not cover items such as car seats, TVs, radios, etc. If you have contacts in Stevenage, the council are looking for donations and items so if you know of anyone in that area who would like to contribute, please can they contact Carrie.Southern@stevenage.gov.uk
Be aware that we will need to collect similar items in each of the local areas in the near future as well.
So to sum up :
Finally, we are trying to combine all our contact lists to a main mailing list. I would like to pass your email addresses to Katharine Seaton, our membership secretary. If you are NOT happy for me to do so, please can you let me know within the next TWO weeks. If I do not hear from you by the 12th March, then we will add your name to the main mailing list.
Thank you for your continued support and please can you circulate this update to your organisations.
Irene and the committee of HWSF
1. Arrival of the first families
Eight local authorities across Herts have been working together to draw up a plan that will meet the Government's Statement of Requirements for the scheme. These councils are St Albans, Stevenage, Three Rivers, Hertsmere, Welwyn Hatfield, East Herts, Watford and North Herts. The plan is by now almost or actually finalised and signed off.
We're really delighted that this consortium of councils has charged the Refugee Council with coordinating the local support to refugees. Most likely, some of this support will be provided by the councils, some by the voluntary sector (including us!).
The Refugee Council have appointed a project manager who is going to contact us when she comes into post at the end of this month.
Our first arrivals will be in Stevenage, at some point from the end of this month to mid-March. The councils are arranging to stagger the arrivals of families between them over the spring and the early summer.
Dacorum is participating in the scheme too. Broxbourne is not.
2. Open Event 31st January
Over 200 people came and it was so, so encouraging to see how passionately people want to help. The report was written up in local press - here is one article: http://www.hertsad.co.uk/news/herts_welcome_syrian_families_event_in_st_albans_attracts_hundreds_of_supporters_1_4406292. Lots of good networking connections were made and it has raised our profile as a group well, with a flurry of activity and communication following the day.
£330 was raised for StAlbans4Refugees (STAR).
Many thanks to Irene for all her work in organising this event!
The Asylum Dialogues - performed by human rights theatre groups Ice&Fire - 5th March - 7.30pm - St Andrew's Church, Hertford!
+ refreshments and discussion
4. Next steps
We, the management committee, are going to meet in a few weeks to discuss preparing for when the refugees arrive. If you would like to get actively involved in organising this, let us know! The more input the better.
The St Andrew's Peace and Justice Group will be hosting a performance of The Asylum Dialogues by actors from the human rights-focussed theatre group Ice&Fire.
The performance lasts approximately an hour and there will be a time for discussions, with refreshments, afterwards.
This evening is free of charge and everyone who is interested is warmly invited, whether within or beyond our church.
Date & Time: Saturday 5th March, 7.30pm
Address: Hertford St Andrew Church, St Andrew Street, Hertford, SG14 1HZ
More information: http://iceandfire.co.uk/
HWSF's recent afternoon of speakers at St Paul's Church, St. Albans was a great success, with over 200 attendees, and £330 raised for StAlbans4Refugees (STAR).
The Herts Advertiser reported on the event. For more information, see the article, here.
Following the event, HWSF, alongside other groups, are continuing to push forward, with exciting developments on the horizon.