Restrictions are lifting and we are picking up the pace of life again. We have now completed our first full version of the new Preparation Course, with eight volunteers attending. They bring with them so many different skills and experiences, and we look forward to offering them appropriate roles in the very near future. The second course is planned for Saturday mornings in July, and there are still vacancies should anyone wish to enrol.
Please contact Esther by emailing .
We continue to expand and develop our charity with the addition of another two new Trustees. Welcome to Ali Bachelor and Finbarr O’Mahony. Ali has a degree in Arabic and Italian, trained as a teacher and has held a number of voluntary positions. Finbarr studied Theology in London and then Peace Studies in Derry. He currently works as a wealth manager with an investment company. Together with Kate Murdoch, they are going to concentrate on how to find work opportunities for the refugees.
Over the winter TWR applied for a grant from the Fairfield Charitable Trust, a Somerset-based organisation that supports charities throughout England and Wales. We were thrilled to receive a positive outcome. As TWR grows so does the amount of paperwork and documentation that needs to be kept, and kept on top of. We identified that this was an area that we needed to address. Therefore we asked for a grant to employ an administrator. The excellent news is that we have found one and she, Caroline Adams, is our new Administrator. She is already running things very smoothly and efficiently. Caroline lives in Huish Champflower, near Wiveliscombe, and has spent many years in managerial and administrative roles in both the public and private sector. After retiring from a position as a procurement manager at SCC she has been involved with the local community office and transport scheme. She will now provide administrative support of all of the trustees and looks forward to meeting TWR’s supporters and families.
English Conversation & Coffee is TWR’s new initiative for refugees to meet up with English speaking volunteers to practice general conversation and to gain confidence in everyday encounters. This is not a teaching session. We are aiming for a personal, one-to-one, quiet conversation period followed by coffee and social games together. Due to continuing restrictions we have reluctantly had to postpone our launch until 9th September when we expect (hope) that all lockdown restrictions will have been lifted. It’s going to be held at the Quaker Meeting House between 11am – 1pm every Thursday during school term times. If there is sufficient demand for it we aim to start a Saturday afternoon option as well.
We have a good number of people signed up but are still looking for more volunteers. If you enjoy meeting people and chatting – we want you! Please contact Esther as above.
Some very cheering news is that we have an artist and musician in our midst. Qutab Daoud, a refugee from Kurdish Syria, is going to be exhibiting his work at the 10 Parishes Festival 2021 which will run from 11th-19th September. We are all going to be supporting him of course!
Accommodation – Families that have been resettled over the last few years by Somerset County Council (SCC) were all housed in private rented accommodation. Typically the availability of housing has been the limiting factor determining how many vulnerable families could be taken from the overcrowded and dangerous refugee camps and resettled in Somerset. The council are now planning on restarting a resettlement program in the near future and this critical constraint is likely to be even more acute as housing has become scarcer and more expensive. Realistically the success of the program will rely on the goodwill of landlords.
If you know any landlords, then it would be useful to explain the situation and how they can help. When SCC are ready to recruit landlords, we will let you know.
Party – We all need to have some fun and we are planning a party! All friends and supporters of TWR and Forum are warmly invited to ‘Celebrate the Liberation from Lockdown’ at a Picnic Gathering at French Weir on Saturday 14th August from 12 noon. A full invitation will be sent out soon.
On the 6th May we held our first Supporters’ Talk, the first of many we hope. This one, of course, had to be held online. Maya Katz and Polly Chelton, two of our supporters, have recently returned from volunteering in Calais and Dunkirk, and have been helping us with our Preparation Courses. The subject was ‘The Calais and Dunkirk Camps for Asylum Seekers and Migrants’. Maya gave everyone a good insight into this world that we don’t know or understand very well, and took a Q&A session afterwards. Thank you Maya and Polly for all your input and for generously sharing your experience with us.
Books! If you enjoy reading, you may like to consider some of these suggestions. These first are not easy reads – but describe in vivid detail the horrors that refugees experience on their way to a new life.
‘The Beekeeper of Aleppo’ – Christy Lefteri
‘The Lightless Sky’ – Gulwali Passarlay with Nadene Ghouri
‘The Optician of Lampedusa’ – Emma Jane Kirby
And these are more about the enormous generational gaps that develop as refugees and their children absorb to a greater, or lesser, extent the new culture that they find themselves having to adapt to.
‘Almonds and Raisins’ – a trilogy by Maisie Mosco which explores the different responses to Western Society of three generations of a Jewish family who fled the Russian Pogroms in the 1890’s.
‘The Joy Luck Club’ – a 1989 novel written by Amy Tan. It focuses on four Chinese American immigrant families and the poignant relationships between Chinese mothers and their American-born daughters.
‘House of Sand and Fog’ – Andre Dubus III captures the dark side of the immigrant experience in the 1990s where the American Dream goes badly awry.
Gail Griffith took over as chair of TWR in Autumn 2019. She cannot have imagined what a turbulent time lay ahead for us. But she was not daunted by the challenges posed by lockdown for a befriending charity. We have kept going as best we could. She focused the efforts of the trustees to take this opportunity to review and update our processes and training materials. We are now coming out of lockdown as a stronger organisation. Most notably, as we now have Caroline on board as our coordinator. Sadly, in April, Gail had to withdraw from TWR for personal reasons and so there is currently a vacancy for the chair. She will be missed by the trustees, who would like to thank her for the enormous amount of time that she invested into TWR and to wish her well.
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.