Under the Syrian Resettlement Programme, 15 families and 35 children have so far begun new lives in Dorset.
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 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.”
Chair of Dorset Race Equality Council and Dorset Council chairman, Cllr Pauline Batstone, 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.”
Mona Elkatory, chair of the South West Dorset Multicultural Network, added, “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.” She encouraged people to consider different ways of supporting and helping refugees and said South West Dorset Multiculture 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: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are interested in volunteering to support a newly arrived refugee family, please contact Andy Jefferies on email@example.com
For more information on the Southwest Dorset Multicultural Network speak to Fiona Thomas firstname.lastname@example.org
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