Our patron, HM Lord-Lieutenant of Hertfordshire Robert Voss CBE, began by expressing his gratitude to the UK for taking in his parents when they were refugees. He stated that Hertfordshire’s diversity is its strength, noting the enormous amount of culture that refugees bring into this country. Voss, praising our charity’s continuing efforts throughout the Covid-19 crisis, stated: “The work, effort and engagement of Herts Welcomes Refugees is absolutely vital. Never more than at this time.”
Herts Welcomes Refugees’ chair, Irene Austin, thanked the volunteers for their continuing work and support, stating that they are the core of our organisation. “This epidemic when it hit came as such a shock,” she said, “but we considered how to keep engaging and responding to [refugee] needs.” Throughout the lockdown volunteers have been working with the families using Zoom, WhatsApp, e-mail, and old fashioned letters. Irene also added that HWR has become more involved in helping children, organising support for young people with their schoolwork.
Treasurer Mick Hayter announced that we have used the money raised from our Laptop Appeal to provide thirty-six Chromebooks to families with schoolchildren. An Ocado Foundation grant has been used as a hardship fund for families affected by Covid-19 and will be used for other emerging needs.
Looking to the future, Herts Welcomes Refugees will be starting an IT project to help families to become more confident with different technologies. One member asked about the psychological impact of Covid-19 on families, and Irene explained that families would hopefully soon have access to therapists through a new project working across the East of England. She noted that, crucially, ongoing contact between our volunteer befrienders and the families has helped to reduce some of the strain of worrying.