BBC Three Counties Radio broadcast a story featuring a number of HWSF members and Syrian families speaking about their experiences in Hertfordshire, discussing everything from housing provision to language lessons.
The piece was broadcast on 16th September, but you can listen to it again here: clyp.it/n1tovbwk
With summer drawing to an end, we’re looking back at all of the fantastic and varied events organised by HWSF for the Syrian children and their families across Hertfordshire.
We organised trips to the Stevenage Museum and the new St Albans Museum, as well as to Whipsnade Zoo. One of our newest volunteers in Dacorum organised the zoo trip, taking it upon herself to raise all of the money for the families’ admission fees.
An outing and picnic planned in Ashridge needed to be relocated to a village hall in Little Gaddesden after a sudden rainstorm, but when the sunshine returned, we managed to get outside for some sport and countryside rambling. The weather also caused a postponement of a sports day in Verulamium Park, but when we finally got the families together, they had great fun with a picnic and games, including hula-hoops and sack races. We also booked a court for Beach Volleyball on the day and were happy to see so many trying it out for the first time.
In Ware, families enjoyed a barge trip along the canal. There were also summer English classes and art classes in this area.
In Stevenage, we held a coffee, cake and chat morning which involved biscuit decorating and face painting for the children. The adults embarked on a sewing project, embroidering their names onto bunting.
Throughout August, in Hatfield, we’ve held a weekly conversation cafe, meant to foster friendships as well as improved English language skills. In addition, we held a tea party at the Quakers Meeting House in Welwyn Hatfield. A local company donated pizzas, and adults and children took part in games and activities.
Our families also attended Refugee Council events, including an employment-themed Learning Day and a Sports Day.
We want to thank our volunteers for their help in organising these events, fundraising, and for their ongoing assistance to the refugee families in our area. We’d also like to thank our supporters for all of their donations, which help to fund these events. All of this is planned with the intention of helping the refugee families to feel more comfortable in their new communities, to improve their English language skills, and to help them develop friendships and support systems in their new homes.
What do you want when organising a countryside picnic in August for 40 people? Sheeting rain is not one of them.
But our HWSF families and volunteers had a plan B and we gathered for an afternoon of fun at Little Gaddesden village hall on Friday 10 August.
We may not have been eating our picnics outside in Ashridge as originally planned, but there was bunting, balloons, and lots of delicious food.
And after a huge buffet lunch, the rain even stopped.
The children had fun in the big playground opposite the hall while another group of adults and teenagers took a short walk, admiring the beautiful view over the valley, exploring a church, and watching a flock of sheep running after a farmer. Back at the sports field, a game of French boules became amusingly competitive!
Our outdoor pursuits were rewarded back in the hall with cups of tea and delicious slices of cake brought by the volunteers.
But the best part of the afternoon was seeing the beginnings of new friendships and everyone coming together.
[Text and photos by Olivia Bolton]
Our volunteers have been busy this summer, raising money to support the needs of the refugee families that we help in Hertfordshire. Whether baking up a storm or riding one hundred miles through wind and rain, our fabulous fundraisers have been working hard to keep our charity fully funded. You can donate via Just Giving if you are inspired by Caroline’s 100 mile bike ride and the work that we do:
Our ESOL Volunteer Coordinator, Caroline Herring, is raising money for HWSF by taking part in the Prudential 100 Miles Bike Ride at the end of July.
If you'd like to support Caroline's challenge by donating to HWSF, please visit: https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/carolineherringhwsf
HWSF was delighted when a local supporter got in touch to offer Eid gifts to the Syrian refugee families in Watford and Three Rivers. The new member, along with a group of friends, raised an incredible £500 within three days! They put together seven packages to give to each of the families, including special Eid cupcakes, chocolates, cards and a purse with £20 for each child. The packages were delivered by HWSF volunteers who wished the families Eid Mubarak (Blessed Celebration!). The families were touched by the packages and by the HWSF well-wishers who’d made them possible.
HWSF recently organised an evening titled “Arrivals and Departures” exploring issues of migration in collaboration with St Albans Folk Club and St Albans Amnesty International Group.
The evening began with a musical performance by local folk band Na Mara about the evacuation of children from wartime Bilbao.
Irene Austin, the chair of HWSF, interviewed two young refugees who now live in St Albans. They discussed the unique challenges of living in a new country with different customs, rules and expectations. Both refugees highlighted the importance of learning a new language and overcoming challenges in their quest for an education.
Local historians, Kate Morris and Ken Griffin, offered a historical perspective, describing the people who had arrived at and departed from St Albans over the centuries.
Syrian and Middle Eastern food was served throughout the evening, and the night was topped off by more songs performed by Na Mara.