Asylum seekers to build new lives in Swindon thanks to community foundation

By Barrie Hudson - 20 October 2021

Charity

A fund to help refugees and asylum seekers build new lives has been launched by Wiltshire Community Foundation.

  • Some of the money will be used to help provide pathways into education and employment

    Some of the money will be used to help provide pathways into education and employment

The Welcome Fund was inspired by the plight of Afghans coming to the UK in the wake of the Taliban takeover of the country, but will be used to help all refugees and asylum seekers who want to make Swindon and Wiltshire their home.

Wiltshire Community Foundation joint chief executive Fiona Oliver said the fund would be used to support charities and groups across Swindon and Wiltshire who work with refugees and asylum seekers.

“We have been approached by donors who want to support the refugees so we are launching the Welcome Fund to give those who want to help a platform for doing so,” she said.

“The situation with refugees arriving from Afghanistan is very fluid at the moment and the intention of this fund is to meet not just their immediate needs of clothing or food but to be there in the longer term when they need more specific help in settling into a new life and establishing themselves within our communities.”

“We will be talking to the voluntary groups and charities who are supporting refugees and asylum seekers so we can understand what their needs are likely to be in the longer term. It could be to assist with things like language skills, provide pathways into education or employment, improve support for physical and mental health or help them connect with the communities they are living in.”

The community foundation has a track record of funding groups who support refugees and asylum seekers, including The Harbour Project, Swindon City of Sanctuary, Swindon Women’s Aid, Splitz and Kennet Furniture Refurbiz. However, the fund will be a dedicated and flexible resource for groups and charities who help them integrate.

“Our fund is a long-term initiative to support projects and activities that aid the overall integration of those newly arrived in our county, enabling them to feel welcomed, valued and become active members of our communities,” said Mrs Oliver.

Claire Garrett, chief executive of The Harbour Project, welcomed the fund. 

She said: “This fund potentially allows us and groups like us to extend and expand our delivery as well as offering some surety that we can keep our doors open for as long as there is a need. It also offers the opportunity to share experience within the voluntary sector by building skills and capacity across Wiltshire.

“Being an asylum seeker is a short interval in someone's life. Their very simple request is that they can get on with their lives in a fair and safe place, leaving behind the fear and trauma that drove them from their homes, friends and family. Our role is to help people along the way, to build the skills and confidence to navigate the UK, establish their own network of friends and contribute to their local community.”

The fund is also being endorsed by Wiltshire Council and Swindon Borough Council, which have both been helping refugees and asylum seekers settle into the county.

Cllr David Renard, leader of Swindon Borough Council, said: “We, alongside our statutory partners, have a strong and proud track record for delivering services to those who have no option but to flee their home country. This is no more apparent than the work currently taking place to look after Afghan refugees in Swindon and Wiltshire to make them feel as welcome and at home as possible.

“We’re doing all we can here in Swindon and it was recently agreed by Cabinet that the council will provide support to those Afghans temporarily accommodated in Swindon under the national Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy as well as for up to four households being permanently accommodated under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy.

“We know that members of the public are also keen to support those in need and this new fund is a great way, for those who wish to, to make a donation and help towards our local response.”

Mrs Oliver welcomed the councils’ support, saying: “We hope their support, and the generosity of the people of Wiltshire and Swindon who have shown time and again that this county throws open its doors to people in need, will build the Welcome Fund into a long-term resource that helps individuals and families make a secure and happy home here.”

Further information, including details of how to donate, can be found at wiltshirecf.org.uk

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