Community Support for Vulnerable Syrian Refugees
As part of the lead partner’s role within the Vulnerable Syrian Refugee Consortium, Bryson Intercultural runs an ongoing ‘open call for offers of support’ from community organisations and individuals who wish to contribute with help and assistance to the Syrian refugees coming to Northern Ireland through the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme. An overwhelming response to this initiative has been received to date from community groups, charities, faith based groups and churches, businesses, sports clubs, schools etc. Three of the VPRS consistent supporters are organisations such as SOS NI, Kiltonga/Storehouse Charity in Bangor and the Belfast Unemployment Resource Centre. Read more about their involvement.
- SOS NI staff and volunteers have been providing ongoing support with transport and some basic items for starter packs donated to each VPR refugee family when arriving into the country. Today, SOS NI is an integral part in the process of the VPR group arrival logistics from airport pickups to Friday prayers’ transport from the Welcome Centres to the mosque and to their temporary accommodation homes, assistance with transport to English classes and special events, families moving house and the list goes on. Their reliable provision, friendly approach and collaboration with the Consortium’s staff are well recognised by the refugees at a delicate time of their resettlement journey.
- Kiltonga/Storehouse North Down – Bangor staff and volunteers also play an essential role within the programme. In partnership with Bryson Intercultural and supported by the main local area Councils where the VPR resettlement programme has its presence. Storehouse North Down provides a range of basic household, food and hygiene items based on their needs and in collaboration with the Consortium’s key workers. The charity also provides storage space for donations and, along with an amazing team of volunteers, works extremely hard on sorting, packing and distributing starter packs to each of the VPR groups of refugees arriving every 8 weeks through the programme. Storehouse sister charity, Kiltonga, are another fantastic supporter providing and delivering regional support with furniture and a range of household goods to the VPR families most in need.
- When families are settled at their respective accommodation, language can still be a significant barrier. The initial community engagement efforts and involvement with the Syrian families have happened and developed relatively organically. Community and voluntary sector organisations were pushed to put in place measures in order to fill the gap so VPR Syrian families could take the necessary steps towards English language learning and integration. The Belfast Unemployment Resource Centre staff and volunteers have been major contributors to the VPR programme since the very first arrival in December 2015. Headed by the tireless efforts of their main English language tutor and volunteer, Arthur McKeown, BURC has provided English language tuition classes, teaching guidance, volunteer recruitment and management and support to many other community and voluntary sector players and local Councils throughout the main areas of VPR resettlement in NI. Although, the Department for the Economy funds ESOL and Pre-ESOL classes to Refugees and Asylum seekers through the Regional Colleges in NI, there are still barriers engaging in main stream formal education and the complementary community based classes are essential to ensure adequate confidence building and progress.
We could not assist the VPR families without the help and support from community groups, individuals and voluntary organisations in NI and the community welcome received by the refugees is a mark supporters will leave forever in their hearts. To find out how you can get involved click here
Some of the other vital community organisations who contributed to the VPR programme to date are the following:
• St. Vincent de Paul Lurgan, Newry and Downpatrick
• Farset International, Belfast
• Emmanuel Church, Lurgan
• Falls Women’s Centre
• Whiterock Children’s Centre
• Conway Mill Education Centre
• Bridge Community Centre , Lisburn
• Atlas Women’s Centre, Lisburn
• YMCA - Bangor
• Hawa Community Group , Dunmurry
• Women’s Centre, L’Derry
• Patrician Youth Club, Downpatrick
• Hope Exchange
and many others …