With the rise in the number of refugees worldwide, including over 5.6 million refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict, we have been active in supporting the government’s commitment to resettle refugees. In response to the growing refugee crisis, we are motivated by the Christian value of ‘welcoming the stranger’, and put our faith into action by helping and supporting the most vulnerable whatever their faith, culture or nationality.
A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee their home because of war, persecution or violence. Today, The Salvation Army count refugees amongst our members, staff and friends, as well as those who come to us for practical assistance. Some of our churches and centres work closely with local authorities that are resettling refugees such as in North Somerset, Essex, Surrey and Southwark. We have also been a pioneer of the Community Sponsorship Programme that allows ordinary people from ordinary communities to form sponsorship groups that directly support refugees. Watch our work in action helping a Syrian family in one of our Community Sponsorship Programmes.
In The Salvation Army we have seen some local congregations act alone as sponsors, whilst others have built partnerships and formed a sponsorship group alongside other local organisations. Whichever way they have worked, Community Sponsorship has had a profound effect on both the resettled families and the welcoming groups through forging new communities, support and friendship.
In the North West of England we work closely with one local authority to offer wrap-around support for a number of families fleeing the conflict in Syria. The Salvation Army employs a project worker who helps the families to settle in and access important services such as the school, doctor, job centre and English language provision.
We also have Community Sponsorship groups up and running in numerous locations across the UK including in London, Liverpool, Kent, South Leicestershire and Hedge End. These groups bring together teams of volunteers who welcome families of refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict from the moment they arrive at the airport, into local accommodation, and provide intensive everyday support required for the family to build a new life in the community.
Our group in Sutton, South West London, recently welcomed a family of 5 Syrians into their community. Local Salvation Army volunteer Gill Bonner who co-ordinates the programme reports:
‘We have been blown away by the way total strangers in our community have welcomed the family. Everyone that we have come across when out and about in our busy London borough has found time to be so helpful, friendly and kind. It has restored our faith in human nature and shown us that we are not as divided as some would have us believe.' Read more about Gill's experience.
Read more about what Community Sponsorship involves through the experience of our group in Raynes Park, London.
Building a Community Sponsorship group takes time and considerable energy. The Salvation Army offers support for applications, as well as advice on other types of resettlement support, through the National Refugee Response Co-ordinator, Major Nick Coke: firstname.lastname@example.org.