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).
- Listen to an interview with Dartington’s Director of Social Justice, Celia Atherton (bbc.co.uk – skip to 1:52:50)
- About the crisis in Syria: UN report
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: www.crowdfunder.co.uk/welcoming-refugees.
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 www.beyondborderstotnes.org.uk/get-involved
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,