JUNE 2022

Let’s start with Refugee Week 2022.  No-one understands exactly how it feels to be displaced from your home and to have lost everything you had, and then had to pick yourself up and build a new life from scratch in a new place.  Whilst acknowledging the many challenges faced by refugees, this week is a chance to celebrate these new beginnings and to listen to their hopes for living in a new community here in Somerset.  We will be listening to our Syrian, Kurdish and Afghan friends this week at our Conversation mornings and hearing their thoughts.

Since the Spring Newsletter the arrival of Ukrainian guests to live in the houses of local hosts has become a reality. We understand that around 300 mothers and children are now here in Taunton and the generosity of people to open their homes to refugees is amazing.  The volume arriving in such a short space of time is causing system-overload for the council and charities and it is likely to take months to settle down.  So there are many frustrations about many aspects of the situation.  It has highlighted how well-designed the Syrian Resettlement Programme was, despite the flaws which bugged everyone at the time.  Hindsight is a wonderful thing. As the weeks go by we begin to see where we can help and where the gaps are that need to be filled.  There appear to be two areas needing immediate responses – English tuition and help where host-guest relationships flounder.  TWR is working on both of these now.

In April TWR gave a 2-part course to help local people thinking of becoming hosts for Ukrainians. This course was recorded and is available on our website. It gives an overview of some of the challenges that they are likely to face and some ideas on how to tackle them.

Early on in the crisis TWR was approached by a group of people from Wiveliscombe to assist in setting up a new support network for Ukrainian refugees.  Wivey Welcomes Refugees (WWR) is now up and running and providing social gatherings for the 27 guests who have arrived in the area. They have also started some English classes and are looking at other ways to support refugees from Ukraine in a rural area where for example the provision of public transport is very thin. WWR and TWR have agreed a Memorandum of Understanding which makes them affiliated to TWR.  We are delighted that this move allows our aim of assisting refugees in the area to spread to Wiveliscombe.   Welcome WWR to our TWR family.

Bridgwater too has a new initiative running on Wednesday mornings.  Another English class for refugees and asylum seekers based on the Conversation concept but with a stronger emphasis on learning the language rather than practising speaking.

With English Conversation & Coffee approaching the end of a full academic year, we are aware that the confidence, and ability to communicate, of those who attend regularly has greatly improved. So we need to keep them coming and keep it fun.

Here is a typical coffee break  – the ladies all quietly move to sit with each other for a good catch up.  Where are the gentlemen you may wonder?  They’re outside together chatting… and the volunteers have to talk to each other as a result. After a while we  regroup for number or word games. We have made these games more testing as the months go by and last week we introduced maths symbols and discovered they are universal. Thankfully!

The laptops that were donated by Scholtech are a huge hit.  We have them out for use on both Tuesday and Thursday mornings and refugees have the choice of whether to learn digital skills or to have a conversation with a volunteer.  Each refugee uses the same laptop each week so that they can access their documents and we can see how much progress they are making.  Volunteers are teaching them the rudiments of the keyboard.  We may aim for a more focussed series of training in the autumn for those who are keen to learn faster. If you have a surplus USB mouse (wired or wireless) then that would be useful as the laptops currently only have the built-in touchpad. If you can donate one or more, please contact

This expansion of our Conversation concept will be made easier with the very timely grant we have been awarded recently from the Hinkley Point Community Fund.

There have been some changes at Board level too.  Finbarr O’Mahony has stepped down to pursue other activities.  He has been a great help to us in our Enterprise subgroup and has advised about the appointment of our new Coordinator.   We all wish him the very best for the future. Eddie East has joined the Board.  A retired headmaster, Eddie has been working with us for some time both in English conversation and as a befriender.  He has considerable experience of being a charity trustee and is at present also on the Board of the Wiveliscombe Area Partnership.   We have asked him to be the liaison Trustee with WWR. We also have a new administrator and safeguarding officer Louise Froud who started in April, but is already well established in keeping track of all our various activities.

Earlier this year, we benefited from the expertise of Sally Hawkes as Ukraine project manager, helping us get our initial offering off the ground.   Sally has now returned to her day job with our enormous thanks for what she did for us and we have appointed Dr Chris Martens who has just taken over this role.   Chris is a geography teacher at Taunton School with a background in academic research on climate change and people migration.  We bid him welcome.

We continue to be blessed with a range of kind people and organisations making generous donations to help us with our work.   Recently these have included Local Taunton based individuals and businesses, Rowbarton Methodist Church and Selworthy Church.  We are so grateful – thank you to all who give money, time, talent and kindness.

The summer trip to Kilve activity centre is set for August.  Sixteen cabins are available and we hope to fill them all.  There are lots of different action-packed ways to spend the time and it will be fun to see if we can tire out all those energetic children.  And to give their parents a chance to see what camping out in UK summer time involves.  Let’s hope it’s not a thunderstorm!

Vodafone is generously offering free SIM cards to refugees and TWR has asked to help with the distribution. Refugees can apply by sending their name and address to


TWR always welcomes new volunteers so if any of our work appeals to you, please do send Esther an email (  Also Foster Parents are specifically being sought by SCC for young unaccompanied asylum seeking minors.  If this interests you please contact .