'We're Open' event supporting Swindon's refugees finds new home

By Claire Dukes - 5 March 2019

CharityBusiness

A weekly event supporting Swindon's refugees will be officially unveiling its new home in the town centre this week.

'We're Open', hosted by Swindon City of Sanctuary, will be officially unveiling its new home at Canal Walk's Coffee#1, Thursday 7 March.

Since the event's inception in 2017, the charity has been providing music, hot drinks, home baked goods and games to offer a community space for refugees living in Swindon to extend a message of welcome. Formerly hosted at Darkroom Espresso, this Thursday will see the initiative in its new residence Coffee#1 from 6.30pm to 8.30pm.

The event is open for anyone to attend with the hopes that We're Open will break down barriers, or misconceptions, towards refugees seeking asylum. 

Nicola Wood, Executive Officer for Swindon City of Sanctuary, said: "We're Open is a great example of what we as an organisation are about. This project is open to all who live in Swindon to come together and feel part of the Swindon Community.

"The whole idea came from volunteer Jol Rose who saw there was a need for this project in Swindon. Jol and a small team of lead volunteers manage the evenings with the support of other volunteers who sign up to a monthly rota. We have been extremely grateful to Will and his team at Darkroom Espresso for hosting us the past few years.

"We are now delighted to have the support of Coffee#1 and hope to attract new people from our community to come and join us, whether your'e new to the town or born and bred here like myself. Come and feel part of something, feel proud to be a 'Swindonian'."

When We're Open started the charity gathered feedback from those who came. N was a new refugee at the time. Prior to living in Swindon, he spent some time in London and Cardiff. He originally arrived in the UK on a visa, before life in his home country made it too dangerous to return.

N said: “We’re Open brings a taste of socialising in a new culture. It’s an exciting environment: music, board games, the chance to learn new things. It’s an additional positive environment. It feels more like community – all the people trying to contribute to this town.

"Through Swindon City of Sanctuary, they’ve found a way to bring immigrants close to society. You meet people and lots of volunteers.

"If I had to describe the feeling in the room of We’re Open, I’d say that it was like an elephant: warm; a sense of togetherness; wanting to stay together in a group; protective of their own kind.

"In terms of change, even the small things can change someone’s life hugely. At We’re Open, we have more closeness to each other and become part of the community. Some volunteers even invite us to their homes for things like Christmas. That’s the change.”

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