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Hastings, Rother and Wealden

Video Produced by UNHCR and Migrants Organise for 2019 WOW Awards.

In 2019, Rossana Leal, Founder and Director of the Buddy Project, won the UNHCR and Migrant Organise-sponsored Woman of the Year award for her outstanding work with the Project! Their film, above, tells the story of the Project.

The Refugee Buddy Project: Hastings, Rother & Wealden  has a new website! Join us at to keep up to date on all our news and events.

Since Autumn 2017, we have been setting up a project in which people from Hastings, St Leonards, Bexhill and Wealdon are invited to offer help of various kinds to the Syrian families entering our community through the Syrian Resettlement Project. Rossana Leal, the founder and leader of this scheme, has a vision for how this can work to establish a real culture of welcome and hospitality towards our new fellow-citizens from her own experience many years ago. For she was another refugee child who had to leave her home and find sanctuary in a new place and a new culture thousands of miles away. Here is her Buddy Story.

The Refugee Buddy Project started in Hastings in 2017, branching out in the Bexhill area in early 2019, and from May 2019 became active in Wealdon as well! Volunteers have been carrying out ad hoc buddying activities with the newly arriving Syrian families, and in doing so, forming close and friendly relationships.

The refugees usually arrive direct from refugee camps and arrive here with nothing. The Buddies help to prepare a new home for them and provide a warm welcome that will help them start a new life in a peaceful country safe from fear, bombs and loss.

The Buddy Project works closely with the Local Authorities who deliver the Syrian Vulnerable People Resettlement Project in East Sussex.  Full-time, paid case officers deal with all education, health, housing, financial and other official matters. The adult refugees normally attend English classes five mornings a week and the children go to local schools.

Buddies are there for all the everyday activities that any family starting a new life in a new country might need help with. We have been doing all sort of stuff!

  • Visiting the families
  • Getting to know their area, walks, visits to cafes, introduction to locals
  • Practising conversational English
  • Accompanying people to the dentist, doctor etc.
  • Driving people to appointments
  • Helping with filling in forms
  • Going to the gym or a mother and toddler club with them
  • Repairing things
  • Bicycle maintenance
  • Showing them how and where to use public transport
  • Signposting people to local services
  • Pumpkin carving, quilt club, cookery groups, puppet making, art group
  • Inviting people go on social activities such as exhibitions and walks.
  • Inviting them for tea or dinner

We now have over 100 people involved in the Buddy Project across the County, with more people joining every week.

We have hosted a number of social gatherings bringing buddies and refugees together. These gatherings were originally held at people’s houses, but we have now far outgrown this! We have held our recent social events at the Kino Teatr in St Leonard’s, Ashburnham Place and Brighton University in Hastings. They are a great opportunity for buddies to socialise with each other and the newly arriving Syrian families.

Watch our short film about what it’s like to be a Buddy!


To find out more about becoming a Buddy, click here.

Donate here!


OPEN – Creative Cafe and Exhibition Space

Rossana’s Buddy Story

Will’s Buddy Story

The Refugee Buddy Project: Hastings, Rother & Wealden