Next week is International Refugee Week, (17 to 23 June), a worldwide celebration of the contributions, creativity and resilience of refugees and people seeking sanctuary.

This year marks the event’s 26th anniversary with the theme of ‘Our Home’.

Through art, sport and cultural activities, Refugee Week 2024 hopes to promote a shared understanding and compassion.

The week also encourages understanding around some of the reasons people have had to leave their home countries and the challenges they may face when seeking safety.

There are about 1,500 refugees living in Dorset.  The majority are from Ukraine, but we also have refugees who have come from Afghanistan, including those who served alongside our armed forces, Syria and other war-torn countries who have fled due to persecution in their own countries. The majority have resettled in Dorset as part of the UK Resettlement Scheme (UKRS), which offers a safe and legal route to vulnerable refugees in need of protection.

Most of the refugee families have been through great hardship and settling in a new country is a huge challenge for most.

Samar is a refugee from Syria, he said: 

“I now live in Shaftesbury where we feel safe, welcome and at home.  We can’t put into words our feelings for the people in Shaftesbury Refugee Group who helped us, they are like our family.

“We are cooking meals to share our family, history and food and to form friendships through food”.

Another refugee said:

“Shaftesbury Refugee Group. Thank you so much for your support and help. It’s really important for us to feel that we are not alone in a foreign country, that we still have families and can communicate and share joys and sorrows with each other.”

Maryna Dovbysh, 36, was a journalist in Ukraine before the war broke out.

She lives with her two young children in Weymouth and works as a refugee project officer for charity Help and Kindness.

She said: ““Before the war, we had a very good life in Ukraine, we lived in Zaporizhzhya region, which is now 80 per cent occupied by Russia.  I was working as a journalist.  We liked to spend time with our family and friends, kids enjoyed their childhood.  We travelled a lot in Ukraine, it is a very beautiful country with good infrastructure and places to visit.

“It’s not been easy to leave everything behind, including my family, my job and home.

“I have family and friends including my mother in Ukraine.  My grandmother passed away recently, which was also difficult as I was unable to go to her funeral. What Russians are doing to our people and our land is terrible, but we hope that with the help of international community we will win this war soon.

“Of course, I miss my homeland, and once the war is over and it is safe for us to return, we will do so.

“I want to be part of rebuilding Ukraine and have a future there, but whilst the war continues, I am grateful for our safe haven in Weymouth.”

This Refugee Week is about extending warmth and hospitality beyond our homes. Making neighbourhoods and communities feel more welcoming.

The Dorset Welcome Fund has helped many refugees begin new lives in Dorset.  More than £70,000 has been awarded in the last year to local community projects and charities that supports refugees to build a new life. The next round of funding will be open to applications from 9 September.

Many refugees have found employment, built businesses, support other refugees, organised local events, volunteer in the community and share their experience, skills and knowledge. 

Celebrations kicks off on Monday 17 June with a Global Café where refugees are welcome to a cultural event sharing food from different nations.  1pm – 2.30pm, St Mary’s Church, Weymouth

The Dry Dock in Weymouth will also be hosting a variety of events throughout the week including music workshops, theatre performances and exhibitions. 

A Football Tournament and Family Event Time takes place at Redlands Community Sports Centre on Saturday 22 June, 10am- 2pm.

The Red Brick Café in Bridport is offering a night of Ukrainian cuisine on Saturday 22 June, 6pm.  To book a table call 07837 186313.

Find out more about events taking place on website.

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