The week beginning 14th June is Refugee Week, and this year's theme is 'We cannot walk alone'. We encourage you to look at the online film festival, Moving Worlds. One of the films featured, Roots, is made by two of our founding members, Katie Seaton and Catherine Henderson, with animation by Rosie Wyllie. Do take a look - it's a 9-minute 'short' - and please watch Suspended, too, if you haven't already seen it. This is on the same website and was made in conjunction with Herts Welcomes Refugees, telling the story of a Syrian refugee resettled in Hertfordshire https://inscapeanimations.com/index.html. There are many excellent films on during Refugee Week. Here is the link for Roots: https://movingworlds.info/roots. There are resources so you can follow the film with a discussion, or show it in a school or place of worship.
Herts Welcomes Refugees would like to thank all of our wonderful volunteers for the time and effort they have given us, supporting refugees in our communities during this difficult period. We would not exist without you as we are almost entirely volunteer run and led. So we want to say THANK YOU SO MUCH and mark your contribution with our heartfelt gratitude. You bring such inspiration and kindness into our community, and we are proud to be an organisation made up of volunteers like you!
We’re thrilled to announce that Herts Welcomes Refugees has been awarded a grant of £34,000 over the next two years from the National Lottery Community Fund. This will enable us to continue to fund the post of Volunteer Coordinator.
Our Volunteer Coordinator manages the recruitment, placement, support and training of our wonderful volunteer teachers and befrienders. She also runs and enables group sessions - virtual at present but soon we hope some will be face to face - for both volunteers and our refugee partners.
We are so grateful to the National Lottery Community Fund - and to everyone who plays the lottery - for making it possible for us to continue this vital part of our work.
In the autumn of 2020 Gill Lamberts and her husband Steve walked the 270 mile Pennine Way and asked for sponsorship for Herts Welcomes Refugees. They raised over £1800 for our charity. Now, Gill has undertaken a new fundraising project. She’s created 100 art works and is selling them on Instagram to support Herts Welcomes Refugees.
We caught up with her recently to chat about her art and her charitable fundraising.
Why did you choose to fundraise for our charity?
Gill: I connect with the plight of the refugee, feeling grateful to have been born in the UK, and aware of how different my life would be if I had been born in a country that wasn’t safe. Finding a way to generously receive refugees feels important to me.
How do you create your paintings?
Gill: I have been painting for about 3 years. I tend to be experimental, using acrylic and watercolour paint, pastels and pens. Most of my pictures are colourful.
Where do you find inspiration?
Gill: Flowers, trees and landscapes are my favourite subjects. I find that structure helps to give me momentum, so joining in the “100 day project”, where I post a painting a day for 100 days, has been helpful. I have had to paint more quickly and with less precision and more fluidity, which has made me happy, as has my friends’ encouragement.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your recent project?
Gill: Before this I hadn’t ever sold a painting, rather I’d given them away. But then a friend asked to buy one, and selling some of the 100 paintings for a good cause seemed like a good idea, and a helpful first step.
You can view (and purchase) Gill’s colourful paintings here: https://www.instagram.com/gilllamb3rt/
Many of you will be aware of the government’s New Plan for Immigration which the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, announced on 24 March 2021 and that it has been criticised by many organisations working with refugees. Responses are invited by responding to a questionnaire. HWR too is very critical of the New Plan for the reasons outlined below. HWR will be completing the questionnaire but we think it very important that as many people as possible do so too so that the government receives a strong message.
Please could you take part in the questionnaire? The Home Office hasn’t made it easy but you will find guidance below. You do not need to answer all the questions but answering any of them sends a formal message to the Home Office that there is opposition to the New Plan.
Why is HWR critical of the New Plan?
1. We are concerned at the proposal that asylum seekers should be treated differently according to the way they have arrived in the UK. The claims of those arriving by ‘irregular routes’ (such as on small boats and in lorries crossing the Channel) will be inadmissible for asylum on the basis that they could have claimed asylum earlier in another “safe” country. The New Plan says that the government will seek rapid removal of inadmissible cases to the safe country from which they embarked or to another safe country. This approach is based on the view that asylum seekers must claim asylum in the first safe country they come to whereas it is established law that this is not correct. The claims of those who cannot be returned (the majority we expect) will be assessed for asylum but they will have only temporary status with no recourse to public funds (except in cases of destitution), nor will they have any family reunion rights. HWR feels that people should be assessed according to the persecution they are fleeing, not on the way they arrived in the UK. Desperate situations force people to take desperate measures.
2. At present, a person seeking asylum can only claim asylum once they are in the UK. This is why people take such risks to get here. There is mention of providing ‘safe and legal routes’ but little detail as to how these would be achieved. Indeed it is not possible to tell from the New Plan how a person might claim asylum in a way that the government considers “legal”.
3. Although the New Plan reaffirms a commitment to resettlement schemes such as the one under which many of our Syrian refugee partners came, there is no mention of numbers as there has been in previous schemes.
4. There are no proposals to enable unaccompanied child asylum seekers to apply for asylum in the UK unless they have family ties in the UK. This leaves children who have become irretrievably separated from their families, alone and vulnerable in often dangerous situations and more likely to risk dangerous crossings.
5. The New Plan will not prevent desperate people from trying to reach the UK to claim asylum, nor will it speed up the asylum system because there are no effective proposals to deal with outstanding claims and to reform the Home Office. Rather it will create a class of people living in limbo with no hope of achieving refugee status or contributing to the UK.
Please try to find the time to respond to the consultation. The New Plan can be found here https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/new-plan-for-immigration. At the bottom of the page, click on ‘Respond Online’ to take part. The plan itself is 52 pages long and in the main questionnaire there are 50 questions in all but it is not necessary to answer them all. On each page of the questionnaire there are arrows at bottom right whereby you can return to questions or skip forward.
Some of the multiple choice questions are difficult to answer because to complete them assumes agreement with the premise of the question which you may regard as wrong in the first place. You can skip any of these you don’t feel able to answer.
If you do not have much time, we suggest these are the questions you answer:
Question 1: HWR will be answering ‘Strongly oppose’
Taken as a whole, we don’t agree that the New Plan will lead to a fairer system.
Question 45: this allows you to add any comments that you may wish to make.
HWR will be focusing on Chapters 1,2,4,5 and 7 and Annex A in its response.
If you would like to see our full response, contact Kate Scott firstname.lastname@example.org
With thanks for all your support
HWR Management Team
On 25 March, over fifty members gathered on Zoom for our fifth Annual General Meeting.
Our patron, HM Lord-Lieutenant of Hertfordshire Robert Voss CBE, congratulated the team for helping the charity to flourish in the midst of the challenges of the past year. “Who would have thought that so much could be accomplished virtually?” he said.
These accomplishments included ensuring that each of the families had a laptop or chromebook to help with work and study. Herts Welcomes Refugees’ Chair Irene Austin pointed out that this was thanks to the crowdfunding appeal. Our bike scheme is continuing and we now have an educational fund (along with volunteers to run these schemes). Irene praised the volunteers for finding new and creative ways to support the refugee families and the new asylum seekers in our area. She stated that our priorities for the coming year are to welcome and support families and to encourage councils to take part in the new resettlement scheme. Our first Advisory Forum in May will ensure that our refugee partners are involved in planning and directing the future of our charity.
A number of refugee partners then spoke about the past year and the impact its had on their lives. One of the refugee partners pointed out how volunteers from Herts Welcomes Refugees had helped his family: with school subjects, with English, with transport during an illness and spiritual support. Another partner explained how various challenges had given his life meaning and inspired him to help others. “My goal is to become a translator or teacher to help other refugees,” he explained.
One young woman spoke movingly about meeting the children’s author Onjali Rauf on Zoom: “It was my first time meeting an author. I was reaching one of my dreams. I couldn’t sleep that night.” The video call was part of an ongoing Youth Zoom series arranged by Herts Welcomes Refugees in association with our new children’s library.
The AGM ended with thanks to the refugee partners for sharing their stories and for being brave enough to speak to a large group on Zoom. Members and volunteers commented on how inspiring the night had been.
We've launched a new video channel on Youtube with videos in both English and Arabic to teach basic IT skills. These tutorials cover topics ranging from setting up Zoom calls to applying for the warm house discount. We hope that these videos will assist our refugee partners and, as this is an ongoing project, we look forward to creating new content that will specifically meet their needs.
If you'd like to have a look:
You can now support Herts Welcomes Refugees on #easyfundraising! When you sign up as a supporter, 4,500 shops and sites will donate for free, every time you shop online. This includes all the big names like eBay, John Lewis & Partners, Argos, ASOS, Expedia, M&S, Just Eat and many more!?
If you're already an Amazon shopper, you can now support Herts Welcomes Refugees whenever you place an order.
Go to Smile.Amazon.co.uk when you want to make a purchase, and select Herts Welcomes Refugees as the charity that you'd like to support. We will get a small percentage (.5%) of your order price to support our charity.
Many thanks in advance!
Local supporter Ann Maiden crocheted over 30 hats which are helping keep everyone warm this winter. Ann made the colourful hats while she was undergoing chemotherapy last year. We hope this year will be a happier and healthier year for her.
We would also like to thank Anna Brady who organised collections of toys and gifts donated by staff, parents and students from Morgans and Sele schools in Hertford, and Mrs Beaumont who collected toys, games and books donated by families at Bridgewater School in Berkhamsted. Local convenors were able to deliver these together with new books for all the children and Christmas money raised in our appeal.
Friends and volunteers across the county called by with gifts for ‘under the tree’ for local families too, and we ran four story time sessions on Zoom over the holidays, two for older children with authors talking about their books, and two for younger children. More of these sessions are planned for each holiday, starting with a ‘bring your own bear’ session of bear stories, songs and poems for half term.