This month marks one year since HWSF became a charity. When we set up in 2015 to begin lobbying for Syrian refugees to be resettled in Hertfordshire, we never imagined that in three years time we would have 38 new Syrian families in Hertfordshire or that we would be a charity.
We’ve had an extremely busy year as we’ve grown and developed, searching for the best ways to welcome, support, and help refugee families to integrate into our communities. Recently, we were runners up in the Social Justice category for the High Sheriff’s Award which was a real achievement for us and brought in some much needed funds.
We continue to host welcome meals for new families, and are happy to report that these meals are now being prepared by other recently resettled Syrians. The families who’ve been welcomed in this way say how important it is to be greeted by so many friendly faces, as well as to meet other Syrians who had settled in Hertfordshire before them.
HWSF organises events and outings all over the county to bring families and communities together, helping Syrians to explore different places and meet new people. Partnership work continues to be a key and we work closely with the Refugee Council, local councils, and organisations such as STAR, People not Borders, North Herts Minority Ethnic Group and many others.
Here are some other updates and achievements from our first year as a charity:
Our cycle scheme has proved extremely popular. We have now delivered 60 bikes and still have a waiting list. As well as repairing donated bikes to ensure that they are safe to ride, we supply helmets, locks and hi vis vests. Some children are growing out of their original bikes so we continue to need more.
Help to make families' houses into homes
We try to source donated goods for families who are setting up their homes. Gifts include lawn mowers and donated garden tools. When the families move in, their new gardens are often overgrown and many of them are keen to cultivate them and grow their own flowers and vegetables.
As language is key to integration, we have successfully bid for funding from Herts Community Foundation for a one year pilot project in Hertfordshire for an ESOL / Language Support Volunteer Coordinator. We thank East of England Strategic Migration Partnership and local councils for their contributions. This post is to support, through volunteers, the formal language provision being provided in the county.
Involving families in events
Our families are keen to be involved in both social and fund-raising events. Their contributions to meals and refreshments at our AGM and other events are most welcome.
The children continue to thrive in their schools and colleges. One young man is well established on a degree course at the University of Hertfordshire with others determined to follow in his wake.
Games to Get, a company based in Welwyn, chose us as their charity for 2018. They made a generous donation to our funds and are collaborating with us on a fundraising Quiz with a Difference, using their game 'Sussed' in September. We hope this will be the first of several such events as we are in constant need of funds.
Gifts to families
We were able to give a gift of £50 to each family at Christmas and the summer holidays to support activities and gifts for the children.
Our priorities for the coming year include:
Could you be part of this?
We need more support for our cycle scheme, including people to source, transport and store bikes across the county.
We need more ESOL / Language Support volunteer befrienders.
We need volunteer drivers.
Could you be part of a fundraising team or make a donation? http://www.hwsf.org.uk/get-involved.html
Fundraising will be essential to support all of the work that we do, from implementing our driver scheme to extending our ESOL Volunteer coordinator’s post - as well as continuing to plan events and activities which help to integrate Syrian families into our Hertfordshire communities. We would dearly love to give each family £50 again for summer activities but are not sure we can do this at the moment without additional funds.
Thank you for the support you have given so far and we look forward to your continued support.
HWSF Management Committee & Trustees