Since Autumn 2017, we have been setting up a scheme in which people from Hastings, St Leonards and Bexhill are invited to offer help of various kinds to the Syrian families entering our community through the Syrian Resettlement Project. Rossana Leal, the founder and leader of this scheme, has a vision for how this can work to establish a real culture of welcome and hospitality towards our new fellow-citizens from her own experience many years ago. For she was another refugee child who had to leave her home and find sanctuary in a new place and a new culture thousands of miles away
The refugees usually arrive direct from refugee camps and arrive here with nothing. The Buddies, along with volunteers from across the County, help to prepare a flat for them and provide a warm welcome that will help them start a new life in a peaceful country safe from fear, bombs and loss.
The Buddy Scheme works closely with the government’s Syrian Resettlement Project, whose fulltime paid case officers deals with all education, health, housing, financial or other official matters. The adult refugees normally attend English classes five mornings a week and the children go to local schools.
The Buddy Project is taking shape and growing every day. Volunteers have been carrying out both regular and ad hoc buddying activities with the newly arriving Syrian families, and in doing so, forming close and friendly relationships.
We now have over 100 people involved in the Buddy Project across the County, with more people joining every week. The money raised will be used to support the Project in taking on a part-time paid Coordinator to ensure the continued smooth running of the Project, a role which is currently performed by a small army of volunteers! We have just moved into a shared venue in St Leonards on Sea. We plan to make this a safe space for everyone seeking safety and sanctuary. The money will also be used to help pay for the cost of this venue and the regular activities and workshops we run to help the newly arrived families integrate into their local community.