The St Albans & Hertsmere women’s group wrote this poem together for Refugee Week:
Missing our Family
And wanting to bring them together
Many of us are missing our mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, sisters and brothers
Important because every Syrian family is not happy
Love to bring them here. We are lucky because some of our children are here, getting a good education and we are safe here
You can help us to find a safe place for our family and support us to bring some of our family to safety here.
We had a great Eid women’s lunch at St Mary’s Church Ware. A volunteer brought a delicious homemade rice and lamb dish and there were also many addictive sugary pastries.
The Ware women were joined by women from Hatfield and further afield. Everyone enjoyed themselves chatting and meeting new friends.
We are delighted to announce that Robert Voss CBE, Lord-Lieutenant of Hertfordshire, has agreed to become our Patron.
He was appointed Her Majesty The Queen’s Lord-Lieutenant of Hertfordshire in 2017, a position he will hold until 2028. He was awarded a CBE in 2014 for “services to British Industry and voluntary work in the UK.”
We look forward to working with him and benefiting from his experience and contacts throughout the county.
Congratulations to Bassel Sheiko on his newly opened food stall!
Bassel, who is a Syrian refugee, arrived in Hertfordshire with his family in 2016. He recently teamed up with his friend Zubair Salam, a refugee from Afghanistan, to open Kabsa Foods which serves fresh Syrian and Afghan food at Watford Market. Kabsa Foods is open Tuesday through Saturday, and was awarded a 5 Star Food Hygiene rating, which is an excellent start for the venture.
One of HWSF’s volunteers recently visited the stall and said how great it was to see Bassel serving his customers and enticing passersby with freshly cooked samples.
We encourage well-wishers to stop by and say hello to Bassel and his partner Zubair to show their support.
Kabsa Foods is located in The Parade, opposite Fitness4Less, in the centre of Watford.
A local supporter entertained the Ware families on Easter Monday in her garden and orchard.
The families have been there several times now, and some have commented that the orchards remind them of home. We had a delicious tea, Easter egg hunt, and even tried some flower arranging. Adults sat and talked while children ran around the garden and house. Volunteers helped with driving on the day. It was lovely to see everyone so relaxed in the sunshine.
We’re grateful for our supporter’s hospitality as well as for the plants she’s donated to the families for their gardens and allotments.
The Reverend Dr David Munchin of St Mary's Church in Welwyn raised almost £6,000 for HWSF by cycling 1,700 miles to Rome this past autumn. We caught up with him recently to talk about the highs and lows of his extraordinary journey.
What inspired you to cycle to Rome?
Every twelve years clergy are lucky enough to have a sabbatical – three months for rest, reflection and renewal. I’ve been a keen cyclist for the last six years and knew that I wanted to include a long distance cycle ride. I had originally thought of taking the Camino to Santiago in Spain, but then a friend got a job in Rome, which meant I had a place to stay where I could enjoy a few weeks in Rome at the end of the ride. In fact the route from Canterbury to Rome was once a well known pilgrim route – the Via Francigena - and recently it was converted to a long distance Eurovelo cycling route, so I followed that.
Can you tell us about your decision to be sponsored in aid of Herts Welcomes Syrian Families?
My church’s giving action group wanted to help HWSF and it turned out to be an inspired choice. I’m careful to say that my experience was nothing like that of a refugee, apart from the fact that it involved a journey which could have been made easier. I had a destination, a home to go back to, a definite route, passport, money, a bed to sleep in every night, unlimited communications with loved ones. However having time to think made me realise how lucky I was, and what it would be like to do a journey like that with none of those things.
What were some of the challenges you experienced on the ride?
People always ask about my legs and my bum! But as a cyclist I knew I could do the ride itself, though it was a tough one. Getting over the Alps and Apennines with a fully laden bike was the challenge I wasn’t sure I would be up to. Logistics were far more of a worry – injury, accident, bike failure, kit failure. To be honest, the greatest worry was getting one’s laundry done and dried before running out of clean clothes!
Did you ever think that you wouldn't finish the journey?
It got easier as I went on. I remember being in Lille after three days of cycling and thinking ‘I can’t do this.’ The trick is convincing yourself that once you’ve done it for four days, even if it’s tiring, you can do it for four weeks, you just need to keep going. So that got easier as I went on – once I was over the Alps at the start of week 3, I knew that I could do it.
Do you have a particular memory from your trip that you'd like to share?
Arriving in Rome was one of the best moments ever. Apart from that riding on quite flat roads through Alsace was the best experience. Very beautiful countryside – we’re going back there on holiday this year – by car!
What advice would you give to people who want to help or welcome refugees into their local communities?
I think perhaps we might be tempted to think that people who arrive will be so grateful to be safe that all will be well. Of course they will be overwhelmingly thankful, but they will also be tired and anxious and maybe traumatised by their experiences. For me, just getting to Rome and seeing an old friend in a lovely flat, and having a suitcase flown out with friends, was overwhelming – but I also needed to get over the ride. So I probably needed to rest and eat rather too much the first day or two. That need to attend to oneself must be much greater in the case of refugees.
Do you know a teacher (or a retired teacher) who might be interested in volunteering a little time to tutor a Syrian child who is new to the UK?
HWSF is seeking teachers - both primary and secondary - to tutor children who need a little extra help with their schoolwork.
Please share this with any teachers that you know! To find out more, e-mail Carolineherring52@gmail.com
We are delighted to announce that we are now working on a new project called ‘Empowering refugee and other migrant women’ in partnership with CDA (Community Development Agency) thanks to a grant from the Tampon Tax Community Fund. The project involves setting up and supporting women’s groups across the county to provide language support, holiday activities, and greater access to information. Our volunteer coordinator, Caroline Herring, will be working on this project, which will include support for mothers of young children who may need to learn English in a more informal setting.
At a recent group (pictured above), the women discussed visiting the doctor, building vocabulary and understanding the roles and practices of medical professionals. The refugee women and volunteers provided lunch, which included spinach and cheese pies, hummus, salad, and (amazing) Harissa cakes.
We hope to share more updates across the county as these groups become established.
An event for the families and volunteers from St Albans and Hatfield was held at Dagnall Street Church this January. There was a shared meal, craft activities, and games for the children. We were also treated to a musical performance on the Buzuq by Bahram from Dacorum - his first public performance!
We look forward to hearing more from Bahram and also send our thanks to Dagnall Street Church for the use of their premises.