Hello friends,

It’s been a while since we last wrote to you but I hope, by the end of this newsletter, you’ll understand the reasons why and be a little forgiving for our tardiness.

The great news is that on the 8th September the family finally arrived, and for the past couple of weeks have been settling into their new home here in Hassocks. 

You may have seen, perhaps via our August appeal for single beds, that the family didn’t end up being the multi-generational family we’d been imagining. Instead we are now supporting a family of five: mother, three young adult daughters and a teenage son. They are refugees from Sudan and have been in Cairo for some years before coming to the UK.

Since they got here the family support, ESOL and medical volunteers have leapt into action on the many tasks and activities needed to get them started on their new lives. For example, everyone is now registered with the doctor, the adults have had appointments with the jobcentre and been enrolled for English lessons in Burgess Hill twice a week, the son is enrolled at Downlands, home English lessons have started, they all have working mobile phones and email addresses, been on trains, discovered useful shops and opened bank accounts! They have also made a connection with an existing Sudanese community in Brighton, which has been great. Every day has brought new experiences, and they are very much enjoying the relative calm of Hassocks.

As the project has evolved into this new phase of activity we’ve decided to reflect these changes in the way that we think and talk about the project and have decided to abandon the ‘refugee’ moniker. The project has been renamed “South Downs Welcome Project”. 

It all feels a very long way on from the beginnings of the project, with Tom sat in his office-shed during lockdown, reading about Community Sponsorship, and thinking “ we could do this in Hassocks”. It’s safe to say we never anticipated the number of people that would be touched by the project, let alone become actively involved, along the way. From children who have given up their birthday money, right through to the 20+ volunteers who are now working either with the family directly, or in the background to help. It’s been some journey.

Of course the project is changing a lot as we enter this phase, and in some ways we’re only starting the real work, now that the family is here. But one thing that hasn’t changed is our strapline – “it takes a village to welcome a family” – and it’s testament to how much this community has pulled together to achieve what we have so far, and continue to do. Whether you are a donor, a supporter from afar, an evangelist for us or a volunteer – thank you so much for getting us this far.

Happy Autumn to you.