HARROGATE DISTRICT OF SANCTUARY NEWSLETTER AUTUMN 2022
This has been a busy year for Harrogate District of Sanctuary. Free from the constraints forced upon us all by the pandemic, we have continued to strive to achieve our mission to create an environment across the Harrogate and Knaresborough district where refugees and asylum seekers feel safe, welcome, included and valued for what they can bring to the community.
Currently we have in our community 25 families settled under the Government’s Refugee Resettlement Scheme and in addition, as a consequence of Russia’s invasion of their country, there are (at the time of writing) 251 Ukrainian refugees being hosted in families under the Homes for Ukraine scheme.
Under the Resettlement Scheme we have ten families from Syria, ten from Afghanistan, four from Iraq and one from South Sudan – a total of 112 people, around half of whom are under the age of 18. Some of the families are now well established, having been here for a number of years, whilst others are still relatively new to the area. The families are supported by volunteer befrienders from Harrogate District of Sanctuary. The befrienders are available to help with any problems, to lend a hand with homework, or simply to be someone to chat to. All these families have been invited to attend various social activities organised by HDS – for example, a kite-making day and a visit to Hesketh Farm Park. There is a weekly Time For Talk session for ladies to socialise and improve their English. This activity was celebrated at the display in St Peter’s Church in June as part of Refugee Week where we saw some interesting interpretations of teapots and cups and other craftwork produced by the ladies.
English classes have been available for all the families in the resettlement scheme but sadly the lockdowns interrupted them. Although they continued to be available via Zoom, this clearly wasn’t so user-friendly and often with maybe only one device in the home, families gave precedence to their children doing online learning. Language learning activities are ongoing with support from NYCC.
Of the 251 Ukrainians currently in the Harrogate and Knaresborough area under the Hosting Scheme, more than half are under the age of 18 and most are single parent families, owing to the restrictions on allowing men to leave the country. Harrogate District of Sanctuary invited other voluntary groups to join them in supporting the refugees and this led to the formation of the Ukrainian Support Network. HDS joined with the Knaresborough Chain Lane Community Hub and Harrogate Mind Acorn Centre in organising weekly drop-in sessions which serve the dual purpose of offering an occasion to socialise and also an opportunity to find answers to the many questions facing the refugees as they try to adapt to life in a strange country. Social events such as trips to the coast have also been offered and the take-up has been huge – on one occasion a second 53-seater coach had to be ordered at the last minute.
The provision of English lessons is another priority we support for the Ukrainians. HDS have provided the facilities for extra classes, funding the costs not covered by NYCC.
Hosts initially signed up to take in refugees for six months. The war shows no sign of coming to an end and that six-month period is just about up. Some hosts are happy to continue as they are; others are not able to and therefore there is a growing need for more hosts to come forward – both for the families or individuals who will need re-housing and for the refugees newly arriving from Ukraine.
If you are able to help please contact NYCC Homes for Ukraine via their website https://www.northyorks.gov.uk/support-ukraine
Another of Harrogate District of Sanctuary’s functions is to campaign on issues affecting refugees and asylum seekers. We have responded to such matters as the Nationality and Borders Act, the Rwanda Deportation scheme, the Linton-on-Ouse Camp proposal (now fortunately abandoned) and so on.
On a local level this has involved raising awareness of the situation for refugees through various activities and a display during World Refugee Week which takes place annually in June. We are very happy to report that Harrogate College was recently awarded College of Sanctuary status and that other schools are currently working towards this accreditation.
The team at Harrogate District of Sanctuary:
You – the members and volunteers – are the people who make it possible for Harrogate District of Sanctuary to achieve its aims, and for this we are truly grateful. Overseeing the running of the charity are the following volunteers:
Chair of the Trustees John Harris
Dennis Brickles (Treasurer)
Margaret Smith (Campaigns and Chair of Public Events)
Issy Mercer (Secretary)
Margaret Bond (PR and Volunteer Coordinator)
Dawn O’Rooke (Volunteer Administration)
Maryse Haywood: Ukraine Support Network Organiser
Harrogate Befriender Coordinator: Jenny Travena
Knaresborough Befriender Coordinator: Anne Thickett
Isabel Sutcliffe: Safeguarding
Kathy Foley: Social and Support Group