On arrival the 60+ participants registered and chose their workshop for the afternoon
Yvonne Rendell, chair of Bromsgrove and Redditch Welcome Refugees (BRWR) introduced the aims of the day. What are refugee welcome groups? Yvonne spoke about BRWR and the aims of the training day, which would inform, update with the latest news of the work in progress re. the arrival of Syrian refugees in Worcestershire and begin the training of our own volunteers/supporters. After two public meetings we now have over 400 supporters and groups of volunteers.
We then went on to hear from a recently arrived refugee, Joseph Amanuel.
Joseph is a Christian and a refugee, who arrived in the UK via Calais and has been granted permanent leave to remain on the grounds of a genuine fear of religious persecution in Eritrea. In conversation with Janet he spoke about his reasons for seeking asylum here, of his journey to the UK and his experiences when he finally arrived. His route was much harder than that of the SVPRS refugees. He appreciated the kindness of some of the people he met on arrival here and is now studying accounting, living in a local Christian community and is BRWR’s treasurer.
Following this personal and moving account, our keynote speaker: Professor Jenny Phillimore , Director of IRiS at Birmingham University, spoke on Integrating Refugees. She gave a well researched account of the situation in Syria and the reasons for the huge numbers of refugees leaving that country.
The day went from the objective to the personal again as Anu Shukla, a Calais and Dunkirk volunteer, BRWR supporter and local journalist, showed her video and spoke about her visits to the French refugee camps.
Many of those present had come to learn more about the Worcestershire part of the SVPRS (Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme) and in particular how it will work in Redditch and Bromsgrove. The Meet the Welcome Team Forum discussion chaired by Dr John Cochrane with Julie Kashirahamwe, Refugee Action, Derek Allen, district councils, Ruth Forecast, Malvern Welcomes, and Yvonne Rendell, BRWR answered their questions and gave a very comprehensive picture of how the settlement would happen. We now know that the first two families (one of three generations) will arrive in Redditch on 30th June and that two families will come to Kidderminster.
After lunch we divided into three training workshops. 1 Getting out the welcome message to community groups, the press and via social media. This was a very practical workshop, which resulted in the formation of a newly structured communications group which will develop a facebook page to add to our website (www.brwr.uk ). A presentation to a local church youth group had already been given and four members would speak at a middle school enrichment day in June. 2 Fund raising and practical help. This workshop brought together the hands on fund raisers and ideas such as a 100 Club, a coffee morning during Refugee Week and a pledge of financial donations scheme were developed. There will be a major fund raising dinner on 9th July at Redditch Town Hall (see item on this website).
3 The Buddies and friends group workshop looked at the needs of refugees and at the attitudes and skills needed to work with them. Syrian culture and the expectations of the new arrivals were also discussed.
Each group gave a short report back and questions were answered. Spoz, our local poet and refugee camp volunteer, had the last word with his own rap poem, Valentine’s Day in the Jungle’.
Reports from participants have been very favourable and it was felt to be a worthwhile exercise.