in News October 11, 2018

Citizen UK Awards Honour Faith Groups Helping to Resettle Refugees

Last week, the first everCommunity Sponsorship Award winners were announced in a packed ceremony at the Royal Society in London.

The awards recognised the volunteers, faith and community organisations who have been working tirelessly to support Sponsor Refugees; a scheme which gives community groups the opportunity to play the lead role in resettling a refugee family into their neighbourhood.

The civil society alliance forms part of the campaign group Citizens UK, who have been working with the government to design a nationwide sponsorship scheme to give local community groups more autonomy and responsibility over the process for welcoming refugee families.

The evening recognised many incredible contributions, including that of twelve-year-oldArun Hamilton McMahon, who was presented with the prestigious Young Champions prize.

Arun collected clothes, trainers and sportswear for a displaced Syrian family, whose resettlement was made possible by the Muswell Hill Methodist Church group.

He then travelled to Gatwick to meet the family, and gave out water bottles, blankets, snacks and helium balloons. Arun and his mother also welcomed the family into their new home with a halal chicken meal and Syrian rice. The friendship didn’t end there, with Arun volunteering to help the older boys learn numbers and the names of fruit and vegetables in English; in return, the boys have helped him to learn Arabic.

Other recipients included Khairunissa Dhala, a founding member of the Welcome Committee in London,  Croeso Arbeth, of Narberth, Wales and Herne Hill Welcomes Refugees.

Khairunissa was named Volunteer of the Year for her efforts to facilitate refugee resettlement by forging relationships with Lambeth Council, local media and community centres. She also found six Arabic-speaking “befrienders” as part of her preparations to welcome the group’s first family, in a few weeks’ time.

Croeso Arbeth picked up the Group of the Year award for welcoming the Bataks, a large family, at “very short notice”, in July last year. “The family are thriving, a new baby has been born, and there have been significant improvements to their health,” the judges said. The group were also honoured at the Liberty Human Rights Awards in October last year.

The New Group of the Year award was given to Herne Hill Welcomes Refugees, a group that includes staff members at the Muslim bank Al Rayan Bank, who raised money to secure a house. The group is awaiting Home Office approval to welcome a family.

Describing her motivations, one of the Herne Hill group, Rachel Griffiths, said: “The most powerful thing for me personally as a Christian has been to come together with people of all faiths and none to make this happen. Community Sponsorship is something every Church should look at getting involved in.”

A spokesman for Citizens UK said: “This was an opportunity to bring together 250 people, from 140 groups across the country, to recognise the achievement of the quiet heroes of sponsorship who have been working hard in their communities to fund-raise, find homes, create language-learning plans, find all the basic essentials a refugee family would need, and plan to ensure that, when they arrive, there is a welcome committee of organised volunteers.”

Introducing a new route for refugee resettlement has taken time and a lot of hard work, but it reaps incredible benefits. The awards showcased the potential of sponsorship for transforming the lives of refugees and local communities alike. Projects like Sponsor Refugees highlight the welcoming and generous character of our communities, and how much we stand to learn and benefit when we participate in defining their values.

in News October 11, 2018