This Refugee Week we can all play our part and help those arriving in our communities to heal

John Delahunty , 21 June 2022

Part of the trauma of a refugee experience is the loss of your home; part of the healing, therefore, must be securing a safe home in order to build a new life.

I’m old enough now so that “history”, increasingly, happened in my lifetime – I remember it.

Looking back to the 1970’s, I remember Ugandan Asians fleeing the Idi Amin regime and the arrival of Vietnamese communities after the end of the Vietnam War. Throughout the past fifty years I have seen colleagues across the social housing sector welcome communities fleeing different conflicts, types of persecution and disasters. Most recently, over the past year we have seen the arrangements for evacuations from Afghanistan and the response to those fleeing the war in Ukraine.

My point?

Supporting people fleeing conflict or natural disaster has always been part of our work in housing - and will continue to be so.

Refugee week 2022 - June 20-26

The theme of Refugee Week this year is healing – meaning recovering from a painful experience or situation, so that we can continue to live.

At Innisfree, building on our original mission to support new migrants from Ireland arriving in London, we’ve been able to give a home to a Syrian family and most recently to two of the Afghan families who had been evacuated to London. We also have a project with the Refugee Council which provides refugee women with a staging post before they move on to more permanent accommodation.

The help we were able to give to the Syrian family in 2018 was in response to a group of volunteers who had applied under the Home Office Community Sponsorship scheme to help a family from one of the UNHCR refugee camps outside Syria. Meeting the volunteers, and the family when they arrived, affected our whole team – it brought a fresh understanding of the human impact of the global movement of people we hear about in the news. Working in partnership with the Refugee Council has also given us an insight into the lives of the refugee women they are supporting. It’s the not knowing, uncertainty, unpredictability that affects them – and the project is designed to provide some solid ground for them, hopefully as the start of a healing process.

Personally, this work has motivated me to respond as well and do more. I am now leading a Community Sponsorship group of volunteers in my home town of Northampton, aiming to help another refugee family. We are always looking for new volunteers so if you are local to Northampton then please do get in touch!

When I look around our sector, I’m proud of the support so many organisations are giving – from Horton Housing in Bradford and ACH in Bristol and Birmingham, to Bolton at Home and MTVH – with too many others to list.

But there is so much more that we can do.

Look at the amazing resources this year for Refugee Week which encourage you to undertake simple acts to make a difference. These are everyday actions you can take to stand with refugees and make new connections in your communities.

The list includes:

  • Send a message.
  • Share a dish.
  • Have a chat.
  • Watch a film.
  • Read a book.
  • Walk together.
  • Plant a seed.
  • Join the movement.

I’ll pick out two of the actions to highlight to you now as a place to begin:

This Refugee Week we can all play our part and help those arriving in our communities to heal.