The pace of change is fast now, so sorry, first of all, about this rather huge update!
New committee member
We are delighted that Samah Alrahabi, who spoke to us about the needs of families in the UK for the first time at our 31st January event, will be joining the committee to act as an adviser and link with the Syrian community here.
Latest on refugee arrivals
We have been to a meeting in Stevenage and they are expecting two families within the next three weeks. Exciting news! WE are not yet sure of the timescale for other councils, but think that Watford are close behind Stevenage and that St Albans seem to be aiming for before the end of March.
The Refugee Council worker comes into post tomorrow (1st March) and will be based initially in Stevenage. We have been told that they are meanwhile recruiting two further workers to work across Herts.
HWSF will be meeting with the Refugee Council on the 9th March.
Stevenage have collated a list of things they will need. Whilst they have money for the basics, it does not cover items like child car seats, TVs and radios. Stevenage Council are looking for donations of money or items from the list, so if you know of anyone in that area who would like to contribute, please can they contact Carrie Southern (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The list can be found at - http://hwsf.weebly.com/goods-needed.html - so take a look. No doubt we will be collecting similar items in each of the local areas in the near future. We haven't forgotten the offers of goods from the How To Help forms - thanks, and we'll contact you if there's a match.
Feedback from 31st January
These were the comments raised at our public event, summarised by Irene.
- Concerns about the trauma they will have experienced and the impact of this on the whole family. This will need to be addressed when they arrive so children as well as adults will need someone who will support them. A co-ordinated effort is needed.
- Have we got the resources to provide the therapists that will be needed? We should be lobbying the councils and government to provide more money and more training. Is it possible for a voluntary contribution to get the money raised at a local level?
- Discussion about welcoming. Canada has welcomed Syrian refugees using the media to good effect. How will we welcome the families?
- We need to ensure our own children understand what refugee children have gone through. Children are very unaware, so schools will need to do more to help them understand each other. How do we prepare the schools and teachers and the community to ‘welcome’ the families?
- Teachers have been known to go over and above what they are paid for to support these children - should we be depending on this? And how can we help?
- Children get to grips with the culture quicker than their parents and that can create a gap. How can we help with this?
- The right to work – the UK needs to find ways to help refugees become economically independent. Who could provide voluntary work to help with integration?
- Concerns about the families feeling isolated and lonely. How do we help them to link with other families, particularly other Syrian families?
- Funding should be available to help adults acquire English (it is available through the VPR scheme) but there might be a need for some 1:1 tuition if members of the family can’t access classes.
- Why aren’t refugees here yet?
The need to prepare the community and schools to welcome families
…and, on this subject…
Catherine Henderson is leading on organising volunteer support at district level, and says:
'We will soon be contacting those of you who have expressed an interest in volunteering to support refugee families. Many of you have joined us since we sent out our volunteer form, so if you have not already completed and returned this and would like to be actively involved when the families start to arrive please could you complete the details at the foot of this email.
'Essentially we are looking for people who are interested in working in a befriending capacity, supporting the Refugee Council project worker. This could involve offering lifts, supporting language learning, helping children with homework or simply, and most importantly, becoming friends. We hope volunteers will be able to offer regular, ongoing support as part of a small team. Certain areas are short of volunteers at the moment.
'Alternatively you might want to help raise funds, which could be used to buy household goods, pay for trips out or perhaps fund drop-in centres/conversation clubs/play sessions – we don’t yet know what might be needed!
'If you would like to help (and haven’t already returned your volunteer form) please send the following information via our Contact Form:
Any particular skills or experience you could offer, including Arabic, teaching, offering lifts (but, mainly, your time, commitment and friendship).'
We have seen from the forms we have received that a course to prepare people to volunteer as English Language tutorswould be valuable to many of you. We are looking into laying this on in a central Hertfordshire location, and seek a venue – please speak up if you know a good one!
We are also looking to set up a fundraising committee, so let us know if you are able to help us with this. We will need funding for volunteers to cover travel expenses, a possible volunteer training course and additional items for the families.
Two events to mention this time:
- Human Rights theatre group Ice&Fire performing Asylum Dialogues *this Saturday* 5th March!
Stories always tell us so much more about human experience than dry facts, meaning this should be a wonderful way to deepen understanding of what it is like being a refugee. So, if you can, come to this performance by professional actors giving their time for free at St Andrew’s Church, Hertford.
For more details, look here:http://www.hertfordstandrews.co.uk/Groups/214883/Hertford_St_Andrews/Worship_and_Prayer/Peace_and_Justice/Peace_and_Justice.aspx
- Bishop's Stortford branch is planning a fund-raising Syrian Evening on 23rd April (Saturday evening) Tickets will be £10 and all are welcome. More details to follow.
Katie and HWSF