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.