Could you help a refugee family?

Volunteers are needed to help newly-arrived refugee families from Syria get used to life in Dorset.

Under the Syrian Resettlement Programme, 15 families and 35 children have so far begun new lives in Dorset. Volunteers are needed to help them settle in, perhaps by taking them shopping, playing with children or just being a friendly face.

Dorset Council and the South West Dorset Multi-Cultural Network are working together to mark Refugee Week 17-23 June, by appealing for volunteers and also providing information in libraries and council offices across Dorset.

A mother-of-two, who has been given a warm welcome in Dorset, after being forced to flee Syria, spoke of her experience. She said: “Me, my husband and my two children fled the horror of war in Syria to neighbouring Iraq. We lived in a camp for five years. The situation was dire and horrible, and there were times when we could not feed our children.

“We lived in a camp. There were times we could not feed our children”

“We heard that there was a chance to leave via the United Nations and we registered our names on the list.  It seemed like a dream but we did it anyway.  It took about a year before we were told we could come to the UK.

“We just want to say to our landlord who is generous and kind that without his contribution, we wouldn’t be here in safety after all the struggles we have seen in our lives.  We want to say we are very grateful to all the volunteers and the local community in Dorset who have been very supportive.  They have become our friends and our family, and they have made us feel at home.  No matter what we say, it will not be enough to express our gratitude.”

Cllr Pauline Batstone, Chair of Dorset Race Equality Council and Dorset Council Chairman, said: “It is difficult for us to imagine what families have been through. It must also be daunting having to start afresh. If you think you could help a family get accustomed to life in Dorset please get in touch, a friendly face can help and make a real difference.”

“A friendly face can make a real difference”

Mona Elkatory, Chair of the South West Dorset Multicultural Network, said: “This week gives us the opportunity to reflect on the plight of refugees and consider what it mean to leave your home, your country and your family behind to escape the horrors of the war.

“Let’s use this week to encourage people to consider different ways of supporting and helping refugees. South West Dorset Multi Cultural Network is proud to be part of the volunteering groups who support refugees in Dorset.”

The Government’s resettlement programme aims to help vulnerable families, who have been forced to flee the war in Syria. It is run locally by Dorset Council, which is asking people who might be able to house a refugee family to get in touch.

Refugee Week is the UK’s largest festival celebrating the contribution of refugees to our society and promoting understanding of why people seek sanctuary. The theme of this year’s festival is “You, me and those who came before”. It looks at both refugees who came here in the past – and those who welcomed them.

If you own a property in Dorset that you think could be suitable, please contact the resettlement officer by emailing: [email protected]

If you are interested in volunteering to support a newly arrived refugee family, please contact Andy Jefferies on [email protected]

For more information on the Southwest Dorset Multicultural Network contact Fiona Thomas [email protected]

As part of Refugee Week, b-side and Dorset Place of Sanctuary are screening six short films on Tuesday 18 June at 7pm both in Bridport and on Portland.