MARCH 2022

As I sit in the peaceful Spring sunshine here in Somerset the news is full of the situation in Ukraine.  TWR are so saddened by the developments in recent days and will wish to assist any Ukrainians who take refuge locally.  Requests for assistance should be made to simon@tauntonwelcomesrefugees.co.uk in the first instance.  A number of other local groups are collecting money and goods to help. To find out up-to-date information on how to respond appropriately to the Ukrainian crisis search for Refugee Settlement in Somerset at somerset.gov.uk/refugee-resettlement.

Following the events in Afghanistan last August we are starting to welcome families here.  As they slowly settle into their new homes and begin to contemplate building a new life here in the UK, we are on hand to offer friendship and assistance wherever we can.  In fact just this week we re-homed an elderly, but perfectly functioning, sewing machine with an Afghan man who has a skill in tailoring.  It’s funny how these items seem to migrate to the right people almost unwittingly.  If you have an old household item in full-working-order we may be able to find it a new home.  You never know.  Please contact Esther with a photograph at volunteers@tauntonwelcomesrefugees.co.uk.

English Conversation & Coffee is going well.  We have lots of new volunteers getting involved which is fantastic.  Thank you everyone.  During the autumn Bridgwater & Somerset College restarted ESOL classes on Thursday mornings and we lost a handful of refugees to it.  Of course it is good news that there are more learning opportunities available locally but to compensate for missing out on the social TWR sessions, we have started up a Tuesday Conversation group.  Already it is proving beneficial as some other refugees who cannot attend on Thursdays are coming on Tuesdays now.

Our local action group ‘Scholtech’ has donated 5 refurbished laptops to TWR.  This is an absolutely wonderful gift to us.  We have discovered that we have amongst our EC&C group an English-speaking Arab with a degree in IT… how perfect is that? He is going to help teach the basics of computer use. But we are looking for other IT teachers to help further improve the digital skills of the refugees, both men and women, who may be looking for work or just need to know how to use a computer.  If you have oodles of patience and enjoy imparting tech know-how and are able to dedicate an hour or so a week, please contact us.

Raawiyah Rifath has secured a grant from Exeter University to put on a special event in March.  Entitled an ‘Employment Skills Workshop’ TWR will be working together with Somerset Diverse Communities and ACH Bristol, both of whom will be presenting workshops for the refugees.  We will report back on what we all learnt from the event in the Summer newsletter.

On a happy note, we eventually managed to host the postponed Christmas party for the families.  We hired Oake Village Hall which has a great playground and a football pitch and were blessed with a sunny February day at the end of the children’s half term.  Everyone brought food from their kitchens and as usual the lunch was delicious.  Kotob brought his Baglama, which is similar to his Oud but attached to an amplifier, and music was made.  Even the local police woman paid a routine call and thrilled the children by blasting her sirens on request!  We had managed to source a present for every child (generally all were selected from donated toys, apart from a few newly-purchased footballs) and so we had a chance to meet all the older children that are at school when we see their parents and little pre-school siblings.  It is incredible how vibrant and integrated these children are already – so good at English and so energetic.

We have been sad to say goodbye to our Co-ordinator Caroline Adams who brought a wonderful sense of order to our sometimes slightly laid back approach to administration. Thank you Caroline.  Over 100 people applied for the vacancy this created and as we whittled the numbers down to the final four we were impressed and grateful to them all for applying.  We are delighted to welcome Louise Froud to this post.   She brings great expertise and experience to our team.  We expect that she will take up duty this month.

Going forward we have a number of events in the pipeline. One of which is a stay at The Outdoor Centre in Kilve where families will get the opportunity to try a number of the activities on offer and venture into a new part of Somerset.

Over Christmas we received donations from a variety of generous sources including:

  • The Ammerdown Centre £255.18
  • Nether Stowey Church £500.00
  • St John the Baptist Church £330.00

In Ecclesia donated the Collection from the Advent Service, which amounted to £200, plus a few new volunteers who made contact having heard Simon Forrester speak about the work we do.

And, more recently, some enterprising students at Taunton International School raised money for TWR by selling Valentine’s Day gifts and have given us £253.10.

Kotob’s Christmas Cards – initially we ordered 500 cards but these sold out by the end of November and we ordered another 100 cards which sold out again.  All in all it was a tremendous success and we thank Kotob whole-heartedly for embracing the project so enthusiastically.  And thanks to everyone who supported TWR by buying some cards.  The total raised was in excess of £700. We think we may try this again!

Thank you to everyone who has been fundraising on our behalf.  Without donations we cannot do the work we do.  So this is a truly vital part of TWR operations!

New Befrienders and Volunteers

Nine new volunteers enrolled for our January Preparation Course, and we are now very pleased to welcome a new group of ‘Befrienders-in-Waiting’, ‘Support Befrienders’ and some into the English Coffee and Conversation pool of helpers. Sometimes we have would-be volunteers whose personal circumstances change, so that they move away from our area without being appointed to a role. This has happened to two of our number recently, we are so grateful for their interest in our work, and we wish them well in the future.

Our core work of Befriending is now so very much easier as the Covid rates have fallen and restrictions have lifted.  We still run Food Deliveries each week and are building relations with many other local charities who also work to improve the well-being of refugees.

Thank you all for your continued interest and support of Taunton Welcomes Refugees.  You are, as always, most important to us and we are very grateful to you.