MARCH 2021

It’s been a while since we last sent you all a Newsletter for which we apologise.  This is mainly because we have been incredibly busy with several new initiatives.  Although Covid-19 has kept us all restricted to our homes this hasn’t decreased our work load. In fact it might have given us more time to dedicate to all the new tasks we have been working on.  We’re confident that this Charity is going to emerge from the lockdowns bigger and better than ever.

With regard to our core work of Befriending, these restrictions have really comprised any social visiting and face-to-face support of the families which has been deeply detrimental to us all – frustrating for the volunteers and isolating for the families.  We are determined to kick-start all our initiatives as soon as restrictions are lifted – visiting the families, arranging social events and bringing back The Forum.  In the meantime we are continuing to maintain contact with the families using whatever means works best – Zoom, messaging, outdoor walks for two.

Along with all of this we have several new plans that we would like to tell you about and hopefully inspire you to get more involved in anything that you think you might enjoy helping us with.

As ever, please do get in touch with us.  We have two new Trustees, firstly Esther Checketts, who is tasked with coordinating all our Volunteers.  So she is the person you are likely to be hearing from in the near future as we attempt to gather all our supporters back into the fold.  We are going to need you as will become clear when you read on.  The dedicated email address is .

This Newsletter has arrived via email, but it is also on our new WEBSITE.  If you haven’t already discovered it, our address is www.tauntonwelcomesrefugees.co.uk. And you can follow us on Facebook as before.  There is information on all our work, who we are – the Trustees who run the charity – and updates to our News Brief and Newsletters.  Please do check it out and let us know what you think.

Throughout the last year TWR, in association with RAFT, have managed to keep up the Food Deliveries on Thursdays which gives volunteers a chance to catch a glimpse of the refugees from the doorstep as they drop off the boxes.  Not only food, but recently TWR have distributed some IT stuff to help with home schooling.  As you can imagine, home schooling has been an extra challenge for the families.  Everyone is happy to be back in the classroom again!

A further need to help popped up in the form of the Census – we have been checking that all the refugees have been able to access and fill in their online forms.

As ever, just as we thought we were putting the finishing touches on the new family Befriending Training, we were tasked with creating a Circle to support a group of 7 young asylum-seekers.  This is a completely new direction for TWR but we are pleased to report that the Circle is up and running and connections are being made.  It has necessitated much hard work for our two Trustees responsible for educating us all, as has been described by Lynne Mayers here:-

Preparation Training Sessions

As the new direction of our work involves supporting young people from a wider geographical area, in addition to Syrian families, we have been having a major rethink of our volunteer training. Both the new ‘3rd Circle’ and the Trustees have been ‘guinea pigs!’

The former shared in two zoom sessions before Christmas, covering aspects of befriending and an introduction to Kurdish history and culture.

This was followed by two further sessions on the journey that migrants and refugees make from the Middle East to the UK. As trustees, we have been delighted to welcome Maya Katz and Polly Chelton to assist in this part of the programme, as both have recently returned from spells as volunteers in the Calais and Dunkirk camps. The trustees also attended these two sessions, and have had a ‘top-up’ look at the history and culture of the Middle East – in particular for Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan (in addition to Syria). So hopefully we feel a little more equipped for this new phase of work. It is a learning curve for us all.

All being well, these new sessions will help form the basis for the full Preparation Course for Befrienders which we hope to offer as soon as we can meet face-to-face.

We will be asking all supporters who volunteer for TWR activities (administration, translation, language practice as well as befriending) to do some preparation, with ‘top-up’ material provided for specific tasks, as needed.

Our thanks go to all those who have already contributed to these sessions and for all the feedback which helps us improve what is on offer. If anyone wishes to be put on the short list for the full Preparation Course (which will probably be over two Saturdays) please contact Esther.

Support Group or Network – there may be quite a few people in the wider Taunton who have volunteered to work in migrant and refugee camps and reception centres in Europe (northern France, the Greek coast or islands, or all places in between). If you would be interested in an informal support group or network for those returning (or know anyone who might be) please contact: .

And the final item to impart on this Spring Newsletter is our new initiative English Conversation & Coffee.  This is being coordinated by Kate Murdoch, our second new Trustee. We realise that to consolidate the teaching from the refugees’ English Language classes we need to create a secondary safe learning environment. As a result of much discussion TWR now has a plan to support the refugees’ in their bid to become confident in talking in English to a wider range of people.  Without conversant English their futures are more precarious.  So this is our major focus, alongside Befriending, and we will need you volunteers to get involved!  Esther will be approaching you by email with more details of the scheme soon.

Thank you all for your continued interest and support of Taunton Welcomes Refugees.  You are all very much part of this charity and we are reliant upon your involvement, and very grateful for it.