Photo - Jeff and members of the team at the airport to welcome a family from Syria
Welcoming a new family through Community Sponsorship
Jeff Britten, Croeso Hwlffordd
Croeso Hwlffordd came about as a result of me meeting people involved in community sponsorship in Narberth and Fishguard. I felt ashamed that there was nothing happening in Haverfordwest, the much bigger county town, and I saw that community sponsorship was a practical way for us to do something to respond to the suffering of people in Syria.
We organised a meeting and hired a church hall in Haverfordwest in November 2016 to see who else locally would be interested. More than 70 people turned up and the room was rammed full of people from different churches, other groups across the town, and individuals. From this a group was formed for community sponsorship. People came forward with specific skills such as ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) and working with those affected by mental health issues and trauma. Teams were formed for a number of areas including communications, ESOL, jobs, and fundraising. The Home Office required us to raise a minimum of £9,000 but we raised more than that through a series of fundraising events - coffee mornings, cream teas, curry night, choir night, plus individual donations. We registered as a charity in August 2017.
Securing a house is key in the process. We are very thankful to a local person who bought a house in Haverfordwest with the specific aim of this being a home for refugees. Most of the furniture for the house was donated by another local person or bought at local charity shops. Bishop Joanna, the Bishop of St David’s and the first woman Bishop in Wales, also agreed to be the patron of Croeso Hwlffordd, another great endorsement of our work to welcome a refugee family.
We were able to draw on much of the learning of the Narberth and Fishguard groups and submitted our draft application to the Home Office and Pembrokeshire County Council in November 2017. We had approval from the council within a fortnight. Approval from the Home Office took longer, but following an inspection from a Home Office team in early January we received their approval in February 2017 and heard later that month that the UNHCR had allocated a family to our group. After a bit of a delay due to a change in personnel at the council we had final agreement in mid-March 2017 for the family to come.
The family arrived in Haverfordwest on 2nd May. All is going well so far. The children have just started school and because of their ages all are able to be together at the same school. The parents are also picking up the language fast, and google translate is proving to be very helpful!
Community sponsorship is something practical you can do to alleviate the suffering of people in Syria. It’s not easy, it’s certainly not a breeze! You have to be committed to do community sponsorship but it has been worth it. Community sponsorship has brought the community together and brought people from across the community together who would probably never have come together otherwise.
Croeso Hwlffordd, along with Croeso Abergwaun and Croeso Arberth, are part of Hiraeth Hope Sir Benfro, a member institution of Citizens Cymru Wales. If you have been inspired by Jeff's article and are interested in setting up a Community Sponsorship scheme in your area, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. You listen to a report and read more about Jeff and the Croeso Hwlffordd team in this article by the US broadcaster National Public Radio.