Refugee crisis response – latest updates

The Dartington Hall Trust is aware and shares the huge concern over the refugee crisis facing Europe and the comments that this is generating amongst people connected in some way with Dartington.

We are already talking to local groups and like-minded organisations on how we can work together on a useful and effective response, and latest updates will be posted below.

One option involves looking at how to welcome some refugee families at Dartington to allow them to rest, reassemble and start to rebuild their lives. We have some buildings which, with modest adaptation, could be suitable as initial, temporary housing. But we know that this needs to be part of a collective, well planned offer.

In the meantime, if you think you or your organisation could get involved, please post your offer in the comments section below – indicating if you wish this to remain private (and therefore not published).

Thank you.

Crowdfunding campaign coming soon

The South Devon Refugee Support Network is bringing together like-minded organisations and individuals to raise funds via a crowdfunding campaign to be launched on 1 December.

As part of the work, The Dartington Hall Trust is committing funds to bring some of its Foxhole buildings up to sufficient standard, which require essential health and safety work to be undertaken, as well as provision of kitchen equipment, to provide suitable reception and workshop accommodation for refugees and asylum seekers.

To find out more, from 1 December, see:

Welcoming refugees response gets down to practicalities, 6/11/2015

Housing recognised as key issue, with a call to wider community to consider more permanent options

The Totnes community’s amazing response to the Syrian refugee crisis has continued with over 100 people attending a Round Table at The Dartington Hall Trust in the last week of October.

People from faith groups to theatre groups came from as far afield as Bristol and Plymouth to join the Totnes event hosted by the Welcoming Refugees Steering Group – Beyond Borders Totnes & District, Embracing Refugees and The Dartington Hall Trust. The steering group is in contact with government departments and UK cities and towns who are already involved in the practicalities of helping refugees to get back on their feet and to move on with their lives.

Celia Atherton, a member of the Welcoming Refugees Steering Group, and director of Social Justice at Dartington, said on the group’s behalf:

‘Together we shared our experiences, knowledge and passion. There was a real spirit of collaboration as we looked at how to help people in great need beyond our borders. Many of us learnt more about what help is needed, and the most sympathetic ways to provide it. All of us talked about what we could offer individually and the circle of support is growing stronger as a result – more like a web, with more and stronger threads every day. This web of support is vital whatever our eventual offer – it is the glue that will make sure no asylum-seeker or refugee is left to make progress unsupported.’

It was recognised that the key need is housing. While Dartington can provide reception accommodation to refugees (using the White House in the Foxhole buildings once made fit for purpose), the Steering Group is calling on the community to think of ways in which to provide onward, more permanent housing that is affordable. Local private landlords and second home owners are encouraged to come forward. Accommodation clustered together would help create a supportive community for refugees.

This is a joint effort covering vital work that can only continue with dedicated funding. The steering group is therefore looking to launch a crowdfunding campaign in December, so ‘watch this space’ by keeping an eye on the Dartington website.

In the meantime, people are encouraged to add how they would be willing to help at

Update from Celia Atherton, Director of Social Justice at Dartington and project lead, 23/09/15

I have watched this page with increasing appreciation of the warmth in so many hearts for people in trouble elsewhere, and with delight in the range of sound advice, great experience, and overall willingness amongst so many to pool our collective skills, experiences and wish to be genuinely helpful. A huge thank you to everyone from – I feel sure – everyone who has read and/or contributed to this page.

So, what next? Our patchwork quilt is growing as more and more of us find each other and see the activities and opportunities that are starting to appear. There are three things that feel equally important as next steps:

  • Bringing together those of us in Dartington and Totnes who could build a practical offer – we are hoping to have a meeting next week of those most closely involved with the formal and informal pieces that need to come together – these are:
    • The informal group of people who have started to think about and plan for all the support that needs to be available for refugees arriving here (Beyond Borders Totnes)
    • The informal group of people who have been concerned about that and have focused more so far on the formal arrangements that would be needed, including accommodation, council support and funds, schooling, language support, health provision, financial support
  • Beginning to create strong links with the various government authorities with whom we want and need to work in partnership if refugees are to be able to take up our community offer and have the statutory support needed. We are in contact with Sarah Wollaston, our MP, who is being fantastically supportive and has been speaking with the Minister and our local council. We have good links with the parish council and are building them with the town, district and county councils
  • Broadening our understandings of what refugees experience before they reach a host community and when they are there – to help us all appreciate the best ways in which we could help. The Beyond Borders group have organised a wonderful opportunity for Saturday 10 October @ 7pm in the Civic Hall, Totnes – a meeting called in collaboration with Plymouth and Exeter refugee services, with speakers from The Red Cross and Refugee Support Devon and input from asylum seekers and refugees. The aim of the meeting is to deepen understanding of local asylum seeker and refugee contexts, realities and needs, and to strengthen the building of networks and a communication hub for local community support initiatives and collaborations. Please do go if you can.

I will add another update next week (end September/early October) – do keep your thoughts and offers coming on here for now. It’s great for us all to see what we can build together.

Thank you, and all best wishes,



74 thoughts on “Refugee crisis response – latest updates

  1. I cannot offer time but am moving soon and may have things to spare e.g bedding and children’s books/ toys – do you need ‘things’ and if so, what and how can we get it to you (and by when)?

    Thank you!

    P.S. Great work!

  2. I am a retired Educational Psychologist and Counsellor with time and energy to help- especially children and women. Individually or in groups, I could be involved in walking, yoga,swimming, gardening. Steve ( musician husband) and I can offer short term blocks of accommodation to 2/3 people in a large, private, ensuite room in our Elizabethan house in central Totnes- with lovely, sanctuary garden.
    Glad to do street fundraising for refugees, having just collected the awesome amount of £273.75 from the generous people who attended Totnes Climate Rally on a soggy Sunday. This money is going to UNICEF for their Syrian refugee children’s winter appeal. Huge thank you Totnes!

  3. Great to read of all the different offers of help. I had a failed asylum seeker from Plymouth staying with me for 10 days as a result of a Plymouth Red Cross Appeal. Most heartwarming, I learnt a lot – and at times it was challenging (but then this is life!). Want to help more but also need a breather – good to reflect that that is the advantage of a team effort, properly co-ordinated.

    1. A huge thank you Margaret for making your home and your heart open to someone is such great need. You make light of it but I have heard from others of your generosity in spirit and practice. do take the time to rest while we all continue to be inspired by your actions.

  4. I’m an ESOL teacher, teacher trainer and ELT author with 25 years experience in the field. I worked for 10 years teaching English to refugees in Birmingham, and now regularly train Government and UNRWA school teachers all over the world and particularly in the Middle East. I specialise in drama and storytelling techniques in the teaching of a second language. I have now set up a project telling stories and teaching English to children in refugee camps and NGO’s in Jordan, Palestine and Pakistan through video conferencing (examples here ) I am currently trying to secure funding for this project and would like to involve locals and local refugees more in this process as it expands.

  5. Ashburton Refugees Welcome Group invite all supporters to a social event on Friday 20th November, 7pm @ Ashburton Town Hall. This will be:
    An evening of food, music and conversation
    Featuring live music from Ashburton’s own Dunstan Belcher; Ambient World Music Sounds;
    And a Middle Eastern Supper –
    followed by former refugee Saif Ali in conversation with BBC Radio Devon’s Sophie Pierce:
    ‘ 18 YEARS A REFUGEE ’ – an asylum seeker’s journey

    FRIDAY 20th NOVEMBER, 7 p.m – until around 11 P.M

    more details:
    Donations welcome, to cover costs, and further proceeds to British Red Cross Syria Appeal.
    phone contact: 01364 – 653425

  6. I’d like to help in some way but was unable to come to the meeting on Oct 26th. I’ve 30 years experience working in special education and also have some experience of live music promotion. Growing veg and dancing are other interests. I would be willing to get involved in any of these areas to help so please contact me after the self-sorting to let me know where I might fit in.

  7. So delighted this is happening. I am very good at organising things and have a range of other useful skills. Will come along on monday 26th and see what is most needed. Only slight hesitation is that I have a very sick husband so may not be able to give as much time as I would like in the next few months.

  8. I should certainly like to help asylum seekers and reugees in some way. I am a qualified teacher of English and so could help develop language skills. I am love the outdoors, am very interested in nature conservation, in walking, and in the creative arts, which could be applied to wellbeing activities or projects. I would be very happy to befriend particular isolated people and meet them on a regular basis – maybe even invite someone to share our Christmas meal.

  9. Hello, I cannot attend the round table meeting but could offer English language support, as a qualified TEFL teacher living in Dartington. I have about one day a week available (flexible)
    Many thanks,

  10. We live near Ivybridge and can possibly offer temporary accommodation in two en-suite bedrooms which we could possibly adapt to have kitchen facilities as well. These are in the house and would not make truly independent accommodation but they do have their own outside doors.
    I rang the County Council and they put me on a list that they pass to SHDC but nothing seems to be happening from that side. They are waiting for government decisions I think.
    That is why I am posting this comment here.

  11. Just following up Celia’s words at the top of this page – with annoi8ncement w are circulating about the meeting next Saturday:
    Beyond Borders Totnes & District
    A meeting will be held at 7pm Saturday 10th October in The Civic Hall, Totnes with speakers from Plymouth Red Cross Refugee services and Exeter’s Refugee Support Devon, with testimony from asylum seekers and refugees. The aim is to help deepen our understanding of the contexts, realities and needs of asylum seekers and refugees; to hear about local support projects getting off the ground; and to inform about the new networking ‘hub’ being established to link local people, local organisations, practices, businesses who want to be involved in creating support for refugees in a wide variety of practical, collaborative and kind ways. All ages welcome – from teens to pensioners.

    Please pass this info on …. Please come. Tell your friends and neighbours!
    And you are invited to explore our new website where you can add your name to a register of interested supporters willing to be involved (in many different and informal ways) and to link with helping refugees and asylum seekers locally . The aim is to help people find each other with similar interests for collaboration in ideas and undertakings – or to find someone with particular experience or offers to link into future initiatives underway.
    Beyond Borders Totnes & District

  12. I would love to help and have lots of time and energy .I live in Paignton. I have a background of medicine (general practice and women’s health/ family planning) but have just taken early retirement so am currently unlicensed in clinical medicine and looking to work more holistically. I have practitioner training in Indian Head Massage and Healing so could offer these hands on therapies and listening skills .. wondered if my medical experience may also be useful? . I also have time to help with anything practical inc driving/ cooking/general support/listening skills /gardening etc
    I am clearing my mums house in Surrey and have duvets/bedding/towels/lots kitchenware I can bring back in Dec if any use?
    I would really love to be involved and feel inspired that we can make a difference reading all these posts. Thank you for having the courage to make this happen.

  13. As Chair of South Hams & Brixham Liberal Democrats, I can state that we will be very pleased to participate in a meeting on this issue. There are a variety of buildings in the area, in addition to those on the Dartington Estate, which could also be brought into use, given the will, and we will be happy to put in ideas on this aspect, as well as on general welfare issues affecting any refugees who come to the area.

    Keith Smith

  14. I would like to offer my time to help with this in any way that I can. Let’s make Totnes and Dartington known as a place that refugees are very welcome.

  15. I would be happy to help in various ways. I am very glad to see there are a lot of like-minded others who have replied already.
    Please e-mail me if there are any meetings etc planned.

    1. I am a paediatrician and willing to help with the health needs. I also have accommodation in my farmhouse near Saltash as well as some rooms in Plymouth. When are they arriving?

  16. Can Dartington confirm that a process has been started? From reading online, it appears that the implementation of the scheme is being operated at County Council level, with coordination with district (and unitary) councils as they are the housing providers. The following statement was released a on 9th September by Devon CC:

    “We have been in contact with Plymouth and Torbay who have identified lead officers with whom we can work and are now contacting all District Councils to see whether they wish to join us in developing a coherent approach across greater Devon, so that we are ready to act quickly when the Government announces the implementation details for this policy………
    I’m sure you will all have seen the heart breaking pictures of the refugee crisis on television and in the papers.
    There has been an outpouring of sympathy from the British people and I firmly believe that the people of Devon would want us to do our bit to try to relieve the suffering.
    We are not a housing authority so we are unable to offer direct help. But I understand some of our district colleagues in Devon are already considering offering to house some of the refugees and we will be working closely with them.
    That will obviously put extra pressure on our services, such as education and social care, which are already the subject of the Government’s austerity savings. So I very much welcome David Cameron’s offer to use some of the overseas aid budget to help local councils meet the cost of resettling people from the refugee camps in Syria – particularly orphans and vulnerable children. We are waiting for more details from the Government on that.
    However, I have already asked for an urgent review of how our services would be able to cope and what extra financial resources might be needed so that Devon can play its part in alleviating this terrible human crisis.”

    As well as exploring, within Dartington, what buildings, resources and people may be available, it is important that the organisations (South Hams, Devon CC) who will actually be deciding the local response are aware of the potential offer so that they can reflect this up to central government. It would appear that there has been a very good response from local authorities generally (albeit with reservations about ongoing financial support) and there is a perhaps a danger of Dartington’s help being turned down as “too late” or “no longer needed”. I don’t mean to agitate, but I am acutely aware of our reputation for talking at length and wanted a reassurance that the conversation has at least begun, and with the people who matter.

  17. Confirming meeting: October 10th, 7pm, The Civic Hall Totnes – a Beyond Borders Totnes meeting – called in collaboration with Plymouth and Exeter refugee services, with speakers from The Red Cross and Refugee Support Devon and input from asylum seekers and refugees. Aim of meeting: To deepen understanding of local asylum seeker and refugee contexts, realities and needs, and To strengthen the building of networks and a communication hub for local community support initiatives and collaborations

  18. Great idea and a very worthwhile use of Dartington Trust property that would otherwise continue to stand empty. Clearly, judging by the comments posted here, there is a significant amount of support.

    If this initiative is managed carefully and creatively, makes the marketing department an integral part of the team and the Trust isn’t shy about wearing a business hat, Dartington could gain considerable nationwide (and beyond) publicity and hopefully funding, not just for property refurbishment etc, but on a wider basis. A definite win-win outcome.

    But…the time to act is now.

  19. Great, all sounds very positive.
    On an immediate short term level – currently packing up hygiene bags for refugees @ Calais.
    Truck leaves from High Wycombe on 7/10 so will be shipping as many as possible on the days before.
    Donations of Toothbrush
    Shower gel OR shampoo
    Roll on
    Very welcome.
    Drop off @ Chimmels on The Estate.

    Many thanks in advance

    1. Just to say that if you are planning to send stuff out to the refugee camp at Calais there will be trucks going out from Totnes in early November.

      Calais has asked that all aid other than food, firewood and shelter be delayed until the end of October/beginning November to enable the volunteers on the ground time to organise the storage and distribute stuff there.

      it’s wonderful to see such generosity.

  20. So thrilled to read of Dartington’s commitment! I live in the village, retired primary school teacher, pretty fluent French speaker, have time to share and give whatever is needed, whenever.

  21. I’m excited to learn of this proposal as I am moving to Totnes shortly and have experience of working with traumatised refugees fleeing war which I would love to offer to this endeavour.

    I recently spent 3 years working for a London-based refugee charity providing both medico-legal intervention and holistic rehabilitation to survivors of torture coming within the ambit of the Refugee Convention and Torture Convention, specifically asylum seekers and refugees affected by trauma, the majority fleeing from war. I am a non-practising solicitor, and worked both on the policy/legal side of the charity including human rights issues, advocating for the refugees so that their voices could be clearly heard, liaising with local authorities and government agencies to secure refugees’ rights to benefits, access to medical assessment and care, education, integration into the local community, etc, and I also worked on the major donor fundraising side of the charity, including using my skills as a freelance photographer to produce fundraising materials. I am also a trained counsellor and would be happy to offer these skills as well.

    I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work in a charity offering such a radical model of rehabilitation, combining medical and psychological therapies (medico-legal assessment, psychotherapy and counselling, body work) with holistically-based modalities such as horticultural therapy, painting groups and a bread-making group. For the more severely traumatised survivors for whom talking therapies were inappropriate, the horticultural therapy proved to be an extraordinary form of rehabilitation. It was humbling to witness individuals so deeply traumatised by their experiences that they could no longer speak or interact with others, slowly blossom and come back to life through working with plants and the soil. To be part of such work again would be amazing – knowing what I do of Dartington’s long-standing ethos and resources, I imagine that it will be uniquely placed to offer a profoundly healing sanctuary for Syrian refugees, and I would be honoured to participate in any way I can.

    1. HI Louise,
      Wow your work history is inspiring. I am also a counsellor at the ‘space’ in dartington and would love to work along side you (voluntarily of course). So please feel free to email me if you think that might work for you.
      blessing Mel

  22. YES! Dartington was conceived with an inclusive mission such as this. Please don’t faff around in the initial planning, GET IN THERE- The need is NOW!

  23. I hoped that this could happen and now it is happening pleased to help … building sustainable housing and growing food would be good therapy for all humans not just refugees but right now they need it most and dartington has superb land and housing potential for a visitors village

  24. My family rent our home on the Dartington Hall Eatate.
    I am very pleased that compassion is being shown to poor desperate people. I hope and trust the DHT will take care to plan ahead in order to handle the many practicalities sensibly and sensitively for all concerned.
    Mainstream media and pollies have turned 180 degrees due to people pressure and some very sad viral photos – wow! This is a wonderful huge affirmation of what people can do, (though it’d be mad to think this is a deeper than superficial change in media-pollies’ ‘morals’).
    I spent several years until recently teaching English and other subjects to refugees (teens and adults) in a FE college in S London, and would be very glad to pool my professional experience at the planning stage and also dedicate some teaching time later on. Learning English is of course an essential part of basic life here.

  25. South Devon Green Party would like to help, but not sure how we can do that yet, but would like to know date of meeting please.

  26. Following the RoomToHeal evening event with refugee speakers held at Sandwell a week ago, a group of us have (in last few days) initiated Beyond Borders Totnes. The website for connection of projects and people – will open in day or two, and we are holding a meeting in second week of October (details to follow) in Totnes Civic Hall with support from Red Cross speakers, to launch co-ordination network of local support.
    So much happening – wonderful. Will post details here as they finalise in next 2 days.

  27. I will be happy to help in any way, and am a volunteer at dartington, I can cook, and can do counselling if needed, I have also been to Syria. I think the more people involved the better, we have to be careful I feel not to wait too long in planning, and need to take direct action and things will unfold. Relevant amount of planning yes and not too much. Syrians need help now, not till we have made perfect plan, and of course we have to be organised enough, bw, shahin

  28. I’m a trained psychotherapist and have worked with families in crisis
    I now coach and facilitate global leadership programs.
    But I’m up for helping any way I can

  29. I have a room.
    Apparently that comment was too short when i tried to post it ….but it is as simple as that.
    I have a room in a house that i share with my daughter …a garden ….and a very big welcome.

  30. I live on the estate so if people are housed here I am offering:
    – neighbourly-ness! Time to sit with them – to offer simple company and contact.
    – To be with kids to give parents a rest.
    – Take people on walks around estate.
    – cook some meals – to either host at my house for social / welcome AND/OR to give ‘home cooked ready meals’ to them so they can eat alone and have respite from lots of well-meaning locals!!
    – I may have practical goods to offer from clothes to bedding (things the Calais camp collections didn’t want, the rest has gone there)
    – may sound odd, but I can offer my need for practical garden work or host people to cook for wider group incase they want to be busy doing simple grounding work with no pressure to perform. If they would feel good feeling useful to their temporary neighbours.

    I would like advice from people who work in these situations and know what really supports people.

    Interested to hear what happens,



  31. I have recently sent up a project in Plymouth working with many organisations who work with and support refugees in the UK and into Europe. We are a group who are setting up fund-raising, donation points and contacting various organisations to provide support and donations. Please feel free to contact me to discuss what we are doing in Plymouth. It is growing city wide and I intend of it to be a long term project.

  32. I would like to help by collaborating with other singers and musicians in sourcing music from home countries and using it for welcome, comfort, solace and joy.

  33. There is a charity called Room to Heal in London that has connections with Hazelwood house? and Totnes. They have expertise with Asylum seekers and victims of torture/trauma. They run a project that helps people rebuild their souls and life through a gardening project. Maybe you could support each other in this vital work as they need funding like everyone else. Maybe you could donate to them in return for set up advise. They are amazing people.

  34. My wife and I are former DHS students who would be willing to help with administrative tasks. My wife has run several school reunions on the estate and is an effective networker and organiser.

  35. I am happy to help in anyway. I have a lot of experiences supporting people in crisis and distress. I like to think I am compassionate and sensitive. I work full time but could spare some time at evenings and weekends

  36. We are Ashburton Refugees Welcome Group. We were created five days ago and have 100 members so far. Our aims are:
    (1) To provide a network, drawing people together as well as the many groups and organisations that exist to support refugees in different forms – creating power by numbers.
    (2)To support those who wish to offer room/s for refugees; to plan and prepare for this by creating a network to support hosts.
    (3)To lobby local government, asking it to offer to take on some refugees in our area. Also to lobby national government, asking it to commit to taking in more than the 25,000 over 5 years promised so far. Also share links to online petitions, and compose individual letters.
    (4) Fundraising and donations – to share links to relevant charities looking for funds at the moment.
    (5) To work towards raising awareness and alleviating fears associated with refugees influx, e.g. story-telling events, meetings with former/present refugees, etc.
    Please keep us informed of your plans. Hopefully we as a group or individual members can help with this venture in some way.

  37. I am part of the Exeter -Totnes Calais Solidarity group and feel the Dartington Estate with its Social Justice dept would be an ideal place to facilitate refugees.

    I would be willing to volunteer in anyway that is helpful, please keep me in the loop.

  38. Delighted you have offered Dartington as a place to help incoming refugees. Not sure how I can help but I am fairly local and happy to give up some time if I can assist in any way.

  39. Great to hear the Dartington trust is getting involved in making available temporary housing for refugees.
    I am not sure how I can help with the skills I have but if nothing else I could be someone to talk with , help with internet stuff or so.
    I speak Dutch, German and English, smattering of French etc.
    Well done Dartington

  40. I would be happy to help with informal social events, especially music. I am a former music tutor at the college and now work with musicians based in the UK but from all over the world including Muslim countries e.g. Senegal and Morocco.

  41. As one with many years experience of the Estate, first as a DCA mature student and then as an employee of DCA and the Trust for nineteen years until the college was hijacked, I commented on three Facebook strings that DHT should step in and consider taking refugees in the Elmhirst tradition. Thank you for your humanitarian response, my opinion of DHT has improved somewhat.

  42. I was at School at Dartington in 1958 & at the Hall as an art
    student in 1960.
    I am already in the Totnes -Exeter Refugee Solidarity Group
    helping with donations (originally for Calais) while I wait to
    go to Calais myself to teach there. I am also in the Citizens UK
    Group to prepare for the arrival of refugees to England, so I
    would be willing & able to be part of this Group too.

  43. I want to help.
    I can offer language skills – I am a very experienced and well qualified EFL trainer,
    Story collection, sharing and telling (I am a performance storyteller and poet & writer)
    Possibly 1:1 short term retreat space with some or all: silence, gardening, story sharing, Language/Cultural lessons

  44. I would be happy to help in any way that I can – I’m working at Exeter University and could possibly investigate involving students as volunteeers? I think this is an excellent idea!

  45. Great to hear that Dartington is working on this. This may well be an option which is under consideration but I imagine that there is quite a lot of accommodation on the estate which is not used full time which might be suitable for temporary housing for these people.

    1. Thank you for your comment Vanessa. We are assessing a range of options, amongst which discussions with other local groups around how to meet the need for temporary housing is one.

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