Paul Kelly, parishioner at Ss Mary & Michael, Settle, and project lead for the Refugee ReSETTLEment Community sponsorship Group, sends this update.
Twenty months since a parish meeting agreed to start the community-wide project to welcome and provide for a family displaced by the Syrian conflict, 5 months since the Home Office approved our intensive preparations, application and accommodation, and now over three months since our journey to the airport that marked the real beginning. Looking back, I don’t know who was more nervous by the time the plane touched down one Tuesday afternoon in late August. Then we see each other for the first time with big kisses between the women and more formal handshakes between the men, all accompanied by beaming smiles. After a slow journey through rush hour traffic we finally arrived at their new home, a big change from their recent past. Two of the volunteers had prepared a Syrian meal and Grandma in the family invites all the volunteers to stay and share their meal.At the end of the day everyone is exhausted but relieved and throughout it all the family toddler is running around playing ball as if she has lived in Settle all her life! Since then the many volunteers, with the assistance of some enthusiastic interpreters have been helping the family with paperwork, appointments, applications for bank accounts and benefits and getting to know their new environment. And of course the all-important English classes.
It is appropriate only to share general information but I am delighted to say that more and more the family are meeting with people in the community of Settle and district and are already taking part in activities outside the core volunteer and English teaching group. They are experiencing many friendly greetings out and about. And the house is proving great too thanks to all involved in its preparation.
Once they arrived we had no immediate plans to do extra fundraising but two recent events were wonderfully arranged entirely independently of the group: a concert in St Alkelda’s, Giggleswick, the musicians offering their skills for free, and a week later the annual Quiz Night hosted by the staff of HSBC Bank. It was great fun, the rugby club was packed out, and it topped £1000 on the night, which the bank will match £ for £. An amazing effort that helps ensure we can continue high quality support for Settle’s new family.
In another surprise this autumn we made the nominations for New Community Sponsorship Group of the year at an award ceremony in Canada House. We didn’t win but Cath Mackenzie (ESOL lead on far right) and I (third from left) had a great chance to network with other groups, and get a photo with one of the presenters – spot Dr Who (Peter Capaldi) at the back of the picture!
It is strongly reassuring to know we have such support, and any dissent in the town community has been pleasingly little. Welcoming the family just wouldn’t be possible without the backing of many people in and around Settle.
The ReSETTLEment team continue to be supported by Catholic Care who act as the lead sponsor and are responsible for the sponsorship arrangements with the Home Office.