South Downs Refugee Project has applied to the Home Office to sponsor the settlement of a refugee family in our village. Whilst we await determination of our application, we’ll take a look at other aspects of the refugee situation. Today Alison shares her experience of working with the charity Refugees at Home
Anyone can become a refugee, face war or persecution – whether they be doctors or farmers, teachers or students, parents or children. They are ordinary people fleeing extraordinary circumstances.
I’m sure you must have felt compassion for the people you saw on our screens trying to flee Afghanistan in the Summer. And thought, but for the grace of God . . . .
A group of us in Hassocks have come together and formed the South Downs Refugee Project because we couldn’t bear to think of people like us, risking their lives, having to flee their homes through no fault of their own. We wanted to do something, however small, to express our solidarity with our fellow human beings. The project has really taken off, and we’re very excited about being able to welcome a refugee family hopefully some time in 2022.
That’s not the only way we can support refugees though. My family has been signed up to the Refugees at Home scheme now for about four years. The scheme is about connecting refugees and asylum seekers in need with welcoming hosts.
Refugees at Home has helped thousands of refugees and asylum seekers to avoid destitution and homelessness. They match guests with hosts who would like to offer a safe, welcoming place to stay, for the length of time that they can manage. Many of the guests go on to receive Refugee status and eventually to find work and a place of their own.
Their vision is a society where every refugee and asylum seeker facing homelessness has a safe place to stay and a chance to rebuild their life.
That’s my vision too, so I was keen to find out more about the scheme, and then to join up in 2017. Since then we have hosted four people, some for as short a time as three weeks, others for nine months! I know we are very lucky to have spare bedrooms in our house since the children have grown up, and this scheme felt like a way of using that space for good.
We have stayed in touch with all our guests – they feel like part of our family now. Friends ask me how I can trust people I don’t know to live in our home, and I say we soon get to know them, they have been through such terrible times and just want to be helpful and fit in. You receive information about each guest, and lots of help and support from the team at Refugees at Home. And you only have to host for as long as you want – nine months is by no means the norm, but in that case we just wanted to support our guest as much as we could.
How does it work?
Hosts speak to one of the scheme’s volunteer home visitors to make sure hosting is a good fit for their household and provide two references.
Most guests are referred by refugee support agencies such as the Red Cross, Refugee Council, or a more local charity. A named caseworker from this charity supports the guest throughout their time in a host’s household and helps to promote a positive placement.
Refugees at Home matches hosts and guests, supports hosts throughout the placement and arranges guests’ move on.
Hosts offer placements for as long as their circumstances permit.
Can you host or know someone who might be interested?
You can get in touch by email on: firstname.lastname@example.org, call on: 0300 365 4724, or apply here: www.refugeesathome.org
Alison Mohammed is Secretary of South Downs Refugee Project