Find out more about South Downs Welcome Project, our partners and the Community Sponsorship scheme.

South Downs Welcome Project

Our group

South Downs Welcome Project is based in Hassocks, Hurst, Keymer & Ditchling in West Sussex. We are committed to the small but transformative potential of Community Sponsorship and are passionate about the mutual benefit of welcoming a refugee family into our lovely community.

The project is coordinated by a steering group: Tom Bailey (Chair), Lou Beckerman, Annette Brown (Treasurer), Jenny James, Richard Miller, Sally Miller, Alison Mohammed (Secretary), John Pritchard, Steve Richards, Jenny Weinstein (Vice Chair) and Jeremy Weinstein. 

SDRP Steering Group© Deirdre Huston

Project Roles

SDRP Project Roles 07.10.21

We have started to allocate specific roles for the next phase of the project:

Steering Group Chair / Project Lead - Tom Bailey

Secretary - Alison Mohammed 

Finance Lead / Treasurer - Annette Brown

Safeguarding Lead / Volunteer Coordinator - Jenny Weinstein

Family Support Coordinator - Jeremy Weinstein 

Health Lead & Wellbeing Lead - Lou Beckerman

Accommodation Lead - Richard Miller 

ESOL & Interpreting Lead - Sally Miller 

Employment Lead - Steve Richards


Roles we will be seeking next year

As the project progresses, we find a property, and are finally allocated a family, there are a number of additional roles we envisage seeking to fill: 

Property Support Lead

  • Envisaged for when we have a better idea on the property and/or family. 
  • Leading on the practical elements of ensuring the property is fit for purpose. Coordinating the work around: Furniture, fixtures and fittings, white goods, personal items. Also coordinating pre-tenancy and on-going decoration and maintenance. 

Benefits Lead

  • Knowledge of the statutory benefits system. 
  • Coordinating applications, supporting the family through the process and advocating for the family at meetings and through correspondence.

Outreach / Culture Lead

  • Envisaged for when we have a better idea of the family.
  • Researching and making connections with relevant groups & organisations and considering cultural / religious / dietary requirements of the family.


Please join the mailing list for future updates on project roles and volunteer opportunities.

If you wish to discuss any of these specific roles in the meantime, then please email sdrefugeeproject@gmail.com marked FAO Jenny Weinstein, our Volunteer Coordinator.

    More about our Aims, Values, and how we work...

    Our Vision 

    Our vision is for a community that respects and welcomes all people. In particular we value the contribution that refugees make to our national life and local community. 

    Our Aims

    To sponsor a refugee family to resettle in the Hassocks area through the Home Office’s Community Sponsorship Scheme.

    To raise the funds to enable a refugee family to settle in the community providing practical support for a minimum of one year from their arrival, and suitable accommodation for minimum two years from their arrival.

    To build a broader network of supporters locally who will support the project in achieving its aims.

    To support the family so they become self-sufficient, independent and are empowered over the two year duration of the project

    To raise awareness of the needs of refugees and promote a warm, welcoming environment in the local community for refugee families to resettle. 

    Our Values

    Respect, mutuality, social justice and inclusion.

    Who we are

    We are a Community Sponsorship group drawn from local residents centred in Hassocks, and extending to Hurst, Keymer and Ditchling. 

    How we work

    The project is led by a Steering Group of a maximum of 12 volunteers who contribute time and skills to help achieve the aims of the project.  We have monthly steering group meetings and have appointed a Chair, Vice-Chair, Secretary and Treasurer. We aim to take decisions in a participatory and respectful way, enabling different contributions according to members’ interests, skills and time available.

    The success of the project will depend on building a broader network of people, who we anticipate will also be predominantly local. Their work will support SDRP  in all kinds of ways; from advocacy and continued network building, to fundraising, to providing direct practical support to the family when they arrive.

    Working groups, comprising members of the steering group and project supporters, will be set up to take specific tasks forward, as need arises. 

    Who we work with 

    Nationally we work closely with our Lead Sponsor Citizens UK who provide best practice guidance and advice, and as a registered UK Charity, underpin the financial and legal obligations of the project.

    Locally we work with District and Parish Councils, local Social Services and other Community Sponsorship groups and/or Migrant Support Groups.



    The on-going refugee crisis... 

    The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimates that there are currently 26 million refugees who cannot go home because of continued conflict, wars and persecution. Around half of these are children under the age of 18.

    Whilst the Covid-Brexit era has meant that we aren’t hearing as much about refugees and displaced people on the news, this does not mean that the problem has gone away.

    Many refugees live in perilous situations, have experienced trauma or have specific needs that cannot be addressed in the country where they have sought initial protection.

    These numbers are, of course, unfathomable and daunting. We are determined to make our own small contribution by working together to resettle a refugee family in our local area. Giving them a new start, safety, and a community network that is ready to welcome and support them.

    What is Community Sponsorship?

    The Community Sponsorship Scheme

    The Community Sponsorship Scheme was set up by the government in 2016 to enable community groups to come together and apply to the home office to offer permanant resettlement for refugees.

     The scheme is based on a very successful Canadian model which has seen more than 300,000 refugees sponsored since 1979.

    The logic is clear - enabling members of the local community to come together and organise based on their own locality and the specific needs of the family means that the family is properly supported as they settle into their new life here. The community in return is enriched by thier experience of the project and their new members! 



    CitizensUK are our Lead Sponsor, as required by the Community Sponsorship Scheme.

    As Lead Sponsor the charity is ultimately responsible for the outcomes of our project and as such, ensures we adhere to the requirements of the scheme, supports us through the various stages of the process providing guidance and advice, and shares best practice from other community groups experience. 


    Reset are a government funded organisation and 'Learning Hub' who coordinate Community Sponsorship activity across the UK offering training and support for sponsors and sponsored refugees, and advice for stakeholders. They conduct research, monitoring and evaluation aimed at understanding how Community Sponsorship works best, and undertake Policy development and advocacy.

    Who will the family be?

    The resettlement process

    To be resettled, refugees must be assessed by the UN's Refugee department against certain vulnerability criteria based on their protection needs. Those that satisfy those criteria are then referred to the Home Office.

     As an idea of this, resettlement cases submitted Jan.- May 2020 breakdown as follows (UNHCR data):

    • Legal and/or physical protection needs - 34%
    • Survivor of violence and/or torture - 31%
    • Woman and girls at risk - 20%
    • Children and young people at risk - 9%
    • Other - 6%

    The Home Office then undertakes screening and assessment before matching families with Community Sponsorship groups to ensure provision matches need.

    Where will the family come from? 

     The vast majority of refugees resettled under the UKRS have been from Syria, displaced by over 10 years of vicious civil war.

    Of all the refugees resettled in 2020 via the UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency), 65% were from Syria, 21% from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, around 7% from Eritrea and 7% from Somalia.

     Having said that, the internation refugee situation is clearly a fluid one, and resettlement needs can shift accordingly.

     More info - The Migration Observatory



    Syrian refugee camp in Turkey

    Syrian refugee camp in Turkey

    Used under Creative Commons, with thanks. © European Union 2016 - European Parliament

    Other FAQs

    Why do you need to raise £15,000?

    For the Community Sponsorship application to be approved by the Home Office, they stipulate the need for a minimum of £9000 ring-fenced funds.

    Although this is the same figure nationwide, accommodation costs in the south east are higher than a lot of other areas. We have forecasted accordingly to ensure the accommodation is affordable to the family over the two year support period.

    Does anyone at SDRP GEt Paid from the money raised?

    No, everyone working with SDRP does so on a voluntary basis. We do plan to reimburse volunteers direct expenses e.g travel, so that volunteers are not actually out of pocket.

    Depending on our success of finding suitable volunteers, in the future we may also have to pay for specific services,  like language tuition for example.


    Not necersarilly. Of all the refugees resettled in 2020 via the UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency), 65% were from Syria, 21% from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, around 7% from Eritrea and 7% from Somalia. 

    Isn't our government resettling refugees already?

    They are. The government have resettled around 20,000 refugees in the last five years. The scheme has recently been extended, with new target quotas due soon.

    Having said that, under the new UK Resettlement Scheme (UKRS) families resettled via the Community Sponsorship will be in addition to these targets. This means our project is working directly to offer a chance of resettlement to a family that wouldn't necerssarilly be offered it otherwise.  

    WHO CAN BE SPONSORED, and how are they selected?

    All family groups are identified by the UNHCR, then pre-screened and accepted by the Home Office, before being allocated to CS groups. Have a read of this FAQ section on the website of our lead sponsor CitizensUK. There you can read more about the criteria for resettlement, how people are chosen, and more about Community Sponsorship.

    WILL THE GROUP replace LOCAL statutory SERVICEs?

    In part. Some of the hands-on direct support will be provided by SDRP with the benefit of local connection. Alongside that we are lucky enough enough to have an active and supportive local authority in West Sussex with whom we'll link up with for other services. The Police will also be engaged for project consent.

    Want to ask something else? Please get in touch