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Founder and Director of the Hastings & Rother Refugee Buddy Project Wins National Woman of the Year Award

Rossana speaking to potential volunteers at the Open Day for the Bexhill Buddy Project

We are delighted to announce that Rossana Leal has been recognised by an award given by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and Migrants Organise, at the WOW! Festival in London.

The Women on the Move Award was given to Rossana in recognition of her pioneering work with the Hastings & Rother Refugee Buddy Project which brings together a community of more than one hundred East Sussex locals with newly arrived refugees. Together they share meals, visit local sites and festivals, run sewing groups, driving lessons and children’s activities.

“The most courageous people I know are refugee women.  In spite of everything they’ve been through, they are reaching out to others in need and giving back to the communities that have welcome them.”

Laura Podoan – Spokesperson for UNHCR

In setting up the project, Rossana drew from her own experiences of fleeing Chile with her family in 1976, and the warm welcome she received after being resettled by UNHCR to a small mining village in Scotland. The refugees were greeted with a party, bagpipes, toys for the children, and a fully stocked coal shed during their first cold winter.

The awards are part of the WOW! Festival International Women’s Day celebrations on 8th March at the Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall in London.

Hosted by the BBC’s Samira Ahmed, the award is presented by founder of the WOW Festival, Jude Kelly, and Vanessa Redgrave, one of the most celebrated actresses of her generation. Redgrave was visibly moved to see the powerful impact of the Buddy Project’s work in Hastings. As a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF, Redgrave met with Chilean refugees fleeing Argentina in the 1970s.

‘’Good people tend to do good work quietly, and Rossana and her friends in Hastings deserve to be celebrated for the amazing work of welcome that they do.”

Migrants Organise Chief Executive Zrinka Bralo

Hastings Community of Sanctuary is enormously proud that Rossana has been recognised by such prestigious organisations. Her hard work in founding and running the Buddy Project, as well as her ongoing contributions to the wider work of Hastings Community of Sanctuary, make her an essential part of our mission to create a place of safety and sanctuary here in Hastings.

For more information about the Buddy Project, and how you can sign up to be a Buddy and / or donate to the Project please see the dedicated section of our website.

About Women on the Move Awards – The Women on the Move Awards and Fellowship were set up in 2012 to recognise and celebrate inspirational leadership and contribution from migrant and refugee women to UK society. This year’s event is on March 8 at 18:30 at London’s Southbank Centre. The awards are a way of saying “thank you” to these committed and courageous women and to be inspired by their positive energy and inventiveness in these difficult times. The idea behind the awards came as an inspiration from the Voices of Courage Awards run by Women’s Refugee Commission in New York. The founder of the Women on the Move awards, CEO of Migrants Organise Zrinka Bralo, was a recipient of one of these awards in 2011. The awards and fellowship make a difference to the women who win them. They gain recognition for their work, their profile is raised, and they are given access to high quality leadership development opportunities. The legacy of these awards goes beyond the ceremony, towards the creation of a more positive discourse on migration.

About Women of the World – WOW is a global movement launched by Jude Kelly CBE at Southbank Centre London in 2010, celebrating women and girls and looking at the obstacles that stop them from achieving their potential. To date, WOW has reached over 2 million people worldwide.  The WOW Foundation produces WOW festivals across the world to celebrate women and girls, take a frank look at what prevents them from achieving their potential, and raise awareness globally of the issues they face and possible solutions. It is the biggest, most comprehensive and most significant festival dedicated to presenting work by women and promoting equality for women and girls. WOW Festivals are presented by arrangement with Southbank Centre.