October 2019 Newsletter

October 1, 2019

SWR has continued to offer support and welcome to the local Syrian families over the last year. The families have established friendships and are venturing further afield especially those with a family member who can now drive. We hope that over the next year the Befrienders may be able to help their family look into work opportunities, and encourage more involvement in local community life. As the need for family support lessens, SWR would like to build on its work around education and awareness such as through the Schools programme, and in promoting Stafford as a Town of Sanctuary.

Income over the last year is not set to go above 5k so SWR will remain a charitable organisation, and does not need to go through the process of becoming a registered charity at present.

Social events group report

In March 2019 the families were offered use of Stafford Leisure Centre for an hour of activities on a Saturday at a reduced rate so SWR decided to subsidise 3 sessions for the families. This began with sports sessions for the children in the big sports hall, whilst the mums had use of a separate room upstairs for their own programme. In May, SWR were successful in a funding bid from the Police Commissioner’s People Power fund to provide a further 12 sessions at the leisure centre. So far, the children have been enjoying football, hockey, badminton, table tennis, basketball alongside games with a sports coach. Whilst the ladies have tried aerobics, use of the Health hub gym, an art session from ProteanArt, a hairdressing session and a health awareness session from a Health Improvement Officer at County Hospital. Most recently Wavemaker delivered a session around the use of Health Apps funded by NHS. Whilst in November the Embroiderers Guild are kindly running an introductory session. This programme has taken a huge amount of organising and help on the day for lifts and childcare for the toddlers and babies so mums can relax and join in the sessions. Huge thanks to all the volunteers involved.

Again this year, the families and SWR volunteers were invited to attend the Eid celebrations with the local Muslim community, and the families are gradually developing friendships there. SMC offer ongoing invites to their monthly Friday evening celebration, and some of the SMC members have started to attend the leisure centre sessions to build relationship with the Syrian families.

Language support Group report

ESOL continues to be available at Faraday Road centre 4 days a week for the families. Additional ESOL sessions may be part of the leisure centre programme until Feb 2020.

Befrienders report

The Befrienders scheme began in April. After tailored training, befriender pairs aim to support each family for at least 3 months in a friendship role which includes helping improve their English, improving their confidence in accessing services, and helping them feel more established in the Stafford community.

By Oct 21st we will have 16 trained and DBS checked Befrienders to befriend 8 VPRS families in their 4th year. The befrienders do not replicate the work of Spring Housing.

Some examples of what befrienders have done so far are:

  • Trips to: Bluebell woods at Aqualate Mere; Ice cream farm in Haughton; The Derrington Millennium park; Rowley park and other places for football clubs; and other amenities in Stafford and surrounding area.

  • Regular visits to families’ homes to play with the children, read out and translate school reports and letters using google translate, chat to parents and help with English conversation.

News from our Campaigns Group

Following a meeting with Jeremy Lefroy, SWR created a joint article with him regarding Asylum Seekers, and how an end to indefinite detention would help the mental health of those detained. This means that people who stay here are in a better way emotionally to deal with a new life here in the UK. It would also reduce cost of not holding people for so long. Also included in the letter was that asylum seekers should be able to work. This is good for our economy and good for asylum seekers.

We continue to attend Safe passage campaigns meetings via video link each month, and we are supporting their campaign Our Turn which asks local Councils to pledge to receive refugee children over the next 10 years. So far Councils across the country have pledged 1410 places. We met with Councillor Mark Sutton regarding the Our Turn pledge. This meeting sadly has not resulted in SCC making a pledge.

The idea behind places of sanctuary is to create a blanket of welcome across the UK by town, village and city to create places within our community that foster a public feel of welcoming rather than suspicion and rejection.

The end goal is still to gain 4 or 5 places of sanctuary and then have the borough and county council maybe recognise Stafford’s status as a Town of Sanctuary, to hold a celebration event for this, to include all the other places of Sanctuary we gain. Perhaps have the council have our Stafford Town of Sanctuary logo on their website.

The Quakers have started the process to become an official Church of Sanctuary and as part of this they are writing a letter to SCC urging them to make a pledge for Our Turn. They are hoping to encourage other churches to join in and sign this letter. Rising Brook Baptist Church and St. Austin’s RC church are also in the process of becoming a Church of Sanctuary.

One of our volunteers is approaching other religious groups at a multi-faith meeting, to see if we can get more on board, in particular local Mosques.

Plus, we are currently encouraging Freedom Leisure to think about becoming Sports Centre of Sanctuary and also a Theatre of Sanctuary.

Outreach/Overseas Aid Group report

The permanent collection bin in foyer of RBBC is still filling up with donations. A few kind volunteers then sort the donated clothes and then every 2-3 months they are driven up to Care UK in Warrington for shipping overseas to refugees arriving on the Greek Islands.

Education and Training Group Report

Youth Education Programme. In March 2019 we began on the first phase of this programme whereby trained young people (refugees and allies) have set up their own Whatsapp support group and could in 2020 assist in training the next cohort of young people. This included a 7 and half hour peer support course for 11 girls aged 10-18 at St Austin’s Parish room; and a leadership weekend at Laches Wood outdoor centre for teenage boys (3 refugees and 1 ally) led by their staff and SCYVS teachers. One of the refugee boys attended a further 2 week leadership training course with SCYVS over the summer.

Schools Programme The schools project began with 2 volunteers leading a whole school assembly at Barlaston C of E First School on Wed April 3rd. It was well received by both children and teachers. A training course about displaced persons issues has been written for the group to present in schools and we hope to pilot it soon in St John’s Primary in Great Haywood. We hope to present the course in more schools from March 2020. Cardinal Griffin in Cannock, Castlechurch Primary School, Blessed Mother Theresa School, Rowley Park Academy, St John’s school, Anson in Great Haywood, St Austin’s, St Paul’s, St Patrick’s and a Barlaston First School have all shown an interest.

Fundraising Group Report

We need a co-ordinator and volunteers to form a fundraising group. Individual members from other groups have made bids for funds and organised events as and when.

Whitemoor Lakes Holiday. SWR applied for money towards an Outdoor Activities centre holiday in October half term for the VPRS families and we were delighted to receive funding to cover 40 individuals. SWR needed to raise funds to cover any additional numbers and costs such as coach travel. A Stafford Translation Companygave a generous donation and our wonderful Chair, Jill did a sponsored walk “The Camino de Santiago de Compostella” to raise the rest.

A Taste of Syria On Saturday July 13th 1-3pm at Rising Brook Baptist church centre over 200 people, including Mayor Gareth Jones and Mayoress Renee Robinson experienced a Taste of Syria. SWR volunteers joined up with Syrian and local musicians to give everyone a fascinating and tasty multicultural afternoon. One SVPR family member performed two beautiful love songs from Aleppo. Several of the Syrian men provided energetic dancing displays. The VPRS Syrian women prepared the delicious food. There was henna tattooing, face painting, plant sales and many people had a go at writing their names beautifully in Arabic.

The event was organised to raise funds for the Athirma Project for refugees in Northern Greece which has renovated a beach house as a retreat and education centre for refugees there. Refugee families and unaccompanied children and university students work together and develop their skills to set up their own social enterprise. At the moment they are cultivating the land, producing their own vegetables which they will process into pickles, jams and sauces ready to distribute and sell. £520 was raised for the Athirma project.

Publicity Group Report

We do not have a co-ordinated publicity group. However, events and reports to the media including our FB page have been managed as and when by a few individual volunteers. Plus SWR had a stall at Stafford in the World May 25th to raise its profile.

SWR received a certificate of participation in the Community Awards.