We the Cranleigh Refugees Welcome Group, endorsed by Churches Together in Cranleigh and hosted by the Methodist church, originated as a response to our church members’ concerns for the plight of Syrian refugees. The Lent 2016 series of discussions on the theme of ‘Hospitality and Sanctuary’, together with conversations about how we can be of greater service to the community, sowed the seeds of the idea to invite people to come together to actively undertake research into how best to encourage and support the local authority in their acceptance of refugee families.
Following advertising through the churches and the village notice boards the first meeting of the Cranleigh Refugees Welcome Group was held at the beginning of November 2016, and 17 people attended. Now over 50 people have made contact to ask about the work of the group. Although the group is endorsed by Churches Together in Cranleigh, with many who come belonging to the various churches, there is no expectation that those who come need to have any religious beliefs or motivation.
The initial meeting was followed by a training session from ‘Citizens UK’ which gave some useful information, and shortly afterwards we worked out a ‘welcome plan’. Sub-groups were set up to investigate aspects such as housing, cultural awareness, ongoing support, publicity etc and these groups worked throughout the Spring term so that the group could be fully informed about these issues. Claire Potter (who chairs the group) was in correspondence with Waverley borough and Anne Milton, with their replies showing their appreciation of what is happening here.
We have been working closely with Waverley Family Support team as they have started settling Syrian families into the Waverley area through the Government’s scheme for the resettlement of vulnerable people from Syria. It has been a real privilege to get to know these people and help them to settle in.
A number of people had expressed interest in language support, so this sub-group has developed into the conversation group called ‘Friendly Voices’. The group invites any for whom English is not their first language to come to talk together on ‘everyday’ subjects. While our building works are taking place sessions take place at the Parish Room of the Catholic Church (in St Nicolas Avenue) on Tuesday afternoons, 1.30-3.00pm during school term times.
If you would like more information about the Refugee Welcome Group or ‘Friendly Voices’ please contact
Pamela Newman-Horwell (admin for the group) firstname.lastname@example.org 01483 274148