Reposted from June’s edition of Hassocks Life. Read the full magazine here

An article in the April issue of Hassocks Life has helped a new community group get off to a flying start. 

The South Downs Refugee Project is a new, non-profit, voluntary group centred in Hassocks, and extending to Hurst, Keymer and Ditchling. The aim of the group is to welcome a refugee family to the area under the UK government’s Community Sponsorship scheme, and support them over a two-year period as they resettle here. “There are twelve of us in the steering group, and even though we all came from the village, we didn’t know each other,” says Sally Miller, “it’s been really interesting to get to know new people.” It is not just the steering group who are involved. “There are already lots of other people supporting the project too, and we hope local businesses will become involved too,” adds Sally. 

Community Sponsorship is built on the power of local people coming together to raise funds for the resettlement process, finding suitable accommodation for the family, and building up a network of local people who will support the family once they arrive. To date, the scheme has resettled hundreds of refugees. Tom Bailey, project chair, said: “The pandemic has shown us all how much difference local communities can make in times of difficulty, so we felt there was no better time to get started with welcoming a new family into our area. There’s plenty to do so we’re really going for it. The response so far has been fantastic, and we’re really looking forward to spreading the word and building a strong network of local support.” 

The group are busy planning activities for a little later in the year, with a launch event planned for the summer, and a fundraising concert (‘Raise the Roof’) on 28th August at Danny House in Hurst – tickets are available via the group’s website. Jazz vocalist Lou Beckerman, pianist Joss Peach and their multi-talented friends are coming together in the beautiful setting of Danny House for the fundraising concert. “It will be a warm and vibrant evening of jazz and folk,” explains Lou. Hassocks folk duo and songwriters, Mike and Reina Reinstein, will also be performing, as well as Terry Pack, Kate Hogg and Sarah Carpenter. Other activities may include a family ceilidh in November and a golf day, quiz, and comedy night organised by Chris at the Purple Carrot. 

The group aims to raise £15,000 and have already opened a JustGiving page. “In terms of when the family might arrive, we’re talking a year or so. It’s a long, slow, thorough process,” explains Sally Miller. “It’s about empowerment and in the long run, making ourselves unnecessary. This is for the benefit of the family, but we also want this to be an enriching process for the whole community.” The group will be at the Hassocks Village Market at the end of July. “I’d encourage anyone who’s interested in finding out more about the project, our planned events and activities, and how they might get involved to come and have a chat at the village market on July 24th, or go to our website:,” said Tom.

SDRP Steering Group ©Deirdre Huston