Rossana Leal, Founder of Hastings & Rother Refugee Buddy Project
Since its inception just over a year ago, Hastings Refugee Buddy Project has been growing and expanding at an incredible pace. We now have over 30 buddies providing different types of support to 13 families, from regular weekly contact, to providing ad hoc assistance such as accompanying them to hospital appointments and providing transport.
As well as this, the families and the buddies have taken part in various projects including art workshops at the Jerwood with Kathy Bor; Hands of Friendship Quilt Making and People’s Boutique, organized by Jane Grimshaw at La La Rouke and at the White Rock Hotel; Bicycle maintenance workshop with BikeLab Hastings facilitated by Will on the Seafront. Most of the families have bikes and safety equipment now as a result of this brilliant initiative.
There have been successful social gatherings at the Kino Teatre and An Evening With Giles Duley where we had a chance to socialize with the families, other buddies and enjoy a photography exhibition and dinner. In addition to this there have been Sunday dinners at buddies homes, days out at Bodiam Castle, a day out in London with the women and children, introductions to the gym and sports activities to name but a few of the fantastic things that have been happening. Some families have even been going to support the local football team! These activities show the success of the project, and the beginnings of real integration of the families into the wider community.
The Festival by the Lake event that took place in June 2018 year, at Ashburnham Place, was well attended by the buddies. This fantastic event raised a staggering £8,000 and we have been very lucky to have been give £400 from this fund. This is what is know as unallocated funding, which we plan to use in our aim to open up the buddy project to people who are not part of the Syrian Resettlement Program.
We held our second Training and Support Day on 29th September which was a full day event attended by over 30 buddies, old and new, and was an opportunity to learn new skills, discuss concerns and meet others involved in the project. It was a fantastic success, and we look forward to next one. At this training day we introduced the Buddy Handbook, which aims to be a touch-stone for the buddies and their involvement in the project, giving clear and concise information about the expectations and responsibilities not only of them, but of everyone involved in the Syrian Resettlement Project. We are so proud of this document as it truly is an example of best practise.
Over the next year we hope to continue to expand the project, building on the knowledge and experience we have gained over the last 18 months. We aim to expand the project to include the wider refugee and asylum community, as we work together to build a town which has a strong foundation of sanctuary and friendship.
We are always looking for volunteers; to buddy, to help with event organisation, fundraising and administration. If you are interested please email us [email protected]