News

Saturday 20 January: SWR visit to Sevenoaks Fire Station

Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS) played host to an excited group of young and older refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and Ukraine at Sevenoaks Fire Station on Saturday 13 January. Everyone was made very welcome although as soon as we arrived the alarm rang, and half of the firefighters disappeared with their engine on a call out!

 

The friendly staff showed everyone the remaining engine and their fire equipment. Some of the children were able to climb into firefighter kit, and a lot of information was shared about fire safety, when to call the fire service and opportunities for staff and volunteer roles.  Sevenoaks Welcomes Refugees is very grateful to the team at Sevenoaks Fire Station for their kind initiative. 

The children and adults got to have a turn spraying water with the high-pressure fire hose. They were also able to sit inside the fire engine. The children were all given paper firefighter hats to wear and hand warmers as a parting gift. Despite it being very cold everyone had a fantastic time. We have been invited to come back when it’s warmer.

 

The refugees found the visit very informative. One Ukrainian refugee said she and her daughter learnt a lot of interesting information. She said “I did not know that they could rescue people from really high or low places, or that they rescued people from water, such as ponds and lake etc! I think it's very important to remember what to do in an emergency.” 


Another Mum said: “We are grateful for the invitation. The children were happy. The event was interesting and everything was in a friendly atmosphere. The children liked that they could try everything: put on special clothes, sit in the fire engine, try a fire hose. And also, nice photos for memories". 


Image left: Firefighter Russ with Zlata  


KFRS is currently recruiting for people to join their team of volunteers. Please check out their website here. You can also help to shape the future of our fire service through their annual community risk survey.            Photo credit: Homa Ansari. 

Alla trying out a high-pressure water hose 

Team photo at the end of the visit

Thursday 28 December: thank you to Capstone Investment Advisors

A massive thank you to Capstone Investment Advisors in London for their wonderful Christmas gifts to the refugee children in our area. 

54 children from Ukraine, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria were thrilled to receive these wonderfully generous – and beautifully wrapped – presents. Such a lovely act of kindness and compassion. 

Thank you to everyone at Capstone Investment Advisors.  


Saturday 1 December: A party for the families -thank you for your support

On Sunday 26 November, SWR organised a “Bring & Share” party for the refugee families we support who are living in the Sevenoaks District. The morning event took place at the Bat and Ball Community Centre and was attended by 23 families – 3 from Syria, 5 from Afghanistan, 14 from Ukraine and 1 from Pakistan. Given the wide geographical spread across the District, opportunities for the families to get together are not frequent. Our volunteers were able to provide transport where needed, to enable this to happen. The focus was on ensuring lots of fun for the kids…and serving up some tasty food for all. 

A JustGiving page had been set up in advance to fund the event, and this raised an impressive £609.38 very quickly. We also received support from Kent County Council who kindly donated £300 in Tesco vouchers. This helped a lot on the food front! The money raised meant that SWR was also able to hire the brilliant Captain Fantastic to provide entertainment for the kids, and buy extra bits and pieces for the party. 

Captain Fantastic put on a great 90-minute show which the kids thoroughly enjoyed. He provided outstanding entertainment for the very excited and energetic children, many of whom had not met before. So to create such a group feel was quite an achievement. The children were kept engaged, whilst also being able to expend energy dancing, chasing bubbles and doing the limbo. Captain Fantastic certainly lived up to his name! 

The excellent Bat and Ball Centre proved to be an ideal venue for the event, which was also attended by Councillor Claire Shea, the Mayor of Sevenoaks, as well as a number of SWR trustees and volunteers. After Captain Fantastic had wrapped up the entertainment, the focus turned to food. An amazing spread was presented and there was lots of lovely food for everyone. The “Bring and Share” theme enabled us all to taste the delicious food from around the world. We were also generously supported by local businesses with generous donations of vouchers, sweets, cakes and beautiful balloons. 

As the families left, the Mayor presented all the children with selection boxes which we were able to provide given the generous donations from the people of the Sevenoaks District area.

The feedback from families and children was overwhelmingly positive, and we hope very much that with continued generous support we will be able to repeat the party. 

We’d like to thank everyone who helped make the party such a great success - the supporters who donated money to make it possible, KCC for the Tesco vouchers, the volunteers who made all the arrangements and did the logistics to get everyone there, Captain Fantastic and his team for being - well, Fantastic - Mayor Cllr Shea for her amazing support and all the families for coming along and having a great time! 

Many thanks also to Emma from the Party & Carnival shop at Tubs Hill, Sevenoaks, for the helium balloons that decorated the entrance so nicely and helped make the party atmosphere. And to Julia and her husband for helping to blow up balloons! to Kates Bakes for the delicious winter-themed cupcakes, and to Jane for running a craft table which was hugely popular and continuously busy throughout the party.  

In the end we spent less than the income that was donated, leaving a surplus of £278.88. We would like to hold onto this and use it for the next Families Event. Because our JustGiving fundraising appeal was specific and restricted to this particular event we’d like to offer any donor who gave to this appeal the opportunity of a refund by contacting fundraising@sevenoakswelcomesrefugees.org  But we hope everyone will be happy that we use it for the next Families Event. Thank you!

Thursday 23 November - David Skinner going to Palestine

SWR trustee David Skinner is temporarily stepping back from being a trustee as he will be going to Palestine to work with the UN for some months. During this period David's status as a SWR trustee will be on hold, and he will not take part in trustee discussions or decision-making. We're sure that all of us in SWR wish David well on this important mission and look forward to his safe return.

Sunday 19 November - A trip to London Zoo. We could have stayed all day

A group of family members and volunteers recently visited London Zoo. Everyone had a great time. The Mum from one of the Syrian families and her 6-year-old daughter told us they'd really enjoyed the outing. Mum said “We had a great time at the zoo. I was amazed at how big it is. It is a huge zoo. I enjoyed seeing the animals there. I was very happy when I heard the lion’s voice up close for the first time ever. My kids enjoyed it there. This was amazing.” Her daughter said “I liked the penguins and the zebras and I was happy because it was my first time and I had a great time.”

 

We are looking for more volunteers. How about you?

 

Please contact volunteers@sevenoakswelcomesrefugees.org

Thursday 28 September - SDC Events for Ukrainians coming soon

Sevenoaks District Council is holding two free information events for Ukrainian families in the District. There will be advice on jobs, benefits, housing, mental health support & much more.

www.sevenoaks.gov.uk/ukraineinfo 

Thursday 28 September - minutes of our Autumn Meeting 2023

Thank you if you were able to come to our Autumn Quarterly Meeting on Wednesday 20 September. Chris Hix welcomed around 25 people to the meeting, on a very rainy evening!  

See here to read more, including finance update, Ukraine refugee update, the Strategic Review and Change Management, and audience questions. The slides shown during the item on the Strategic Review and Change Management are here. 

Town of Sanctuary

In a joint initiative by Sevenoaks Town Council and Sevenoaks Welcomes Refugees, Sevenoaks has been named as a Town of Sanctuary by the charity overseeing the Sanctuary scheme. It's the first town in the UK to receive this award. 


Monday June 19 - Sevenoaks named as Town of Sanctuary

In a joint initiative by Sevenoaks Town Council and Sevenoaks Welcomes Refugees, Sevenoaks has been named as a Town of Sanctuary by the charity overseeing the Sanctuary scheme. It's the first town in the UK to receive this award. 

Sevenoaks Welcomes Refugees (SWR) is delighted that Sevenoaks has been awarded Town of Sanctuary status by City of Sanctuary UK. We congratulate Sevenoaks Town Council on its successful application, and for all their hard work in making it happen. 


SWR Trustee Chris Hix said: “On the first day of Refugee Week, this is such great news! This is a symbolic achievement for Sevenoaks, and will bring many practical benefits to everyone working to help the resettlement of refugees and asylum seekers in the Sevenoaks area. We are working now with the Sevenoaks Town Council, and all our other fantastic partners, to maximise those practical benefits in all aspects of what we’re doing to help refugees resettle and gain independence in their new country. The Town of Sanctuary initiative will help us in our search for more landlords, hosts, volunteers, job and training opportunities, donors and supporters.  We call on our partners at Sevenoaks District Council, and Town Councils across the Sevenoaks District to follow the great example of Sevenoaks Town Council and join the Sanctuary scheme". 

The City of Sanctuary Scheme in England is administered by a national organization called City of Sanctuary UK. City of Sanctuary UK is a charitable organization that supports and coordinates the efforts of local City of Sanctuary groups across the country. It provides guidance, resources, and networking opportunities to communities, organizations, and individuals who are committed to creating a culture of welcome and inclusion for refugees and asylum seekers. City of Sanctuary UK works closely with local authorities, community groups, and individuals to build relationships, raise awareness, and develop practical initiatives to make cities and towns more welcoming for people seeking sanctuary.

Read also the Sevenoaks Town Council press release CLICK HERE

Sunday June 18 - SWR Strategic Review now published

Here is the final report of the Strategic Review team.  The Strategic Review was commissioned by the Trustees to guide the next stages of the development of Sevenoaks Welcomes Refugees.

The report is 27 pages long, with 14 pages of Appendices. The Executive Summary is 5 pages.

To see the report please CLICK HERE.

Here is a message from the Trustees:

The Trustees wish to thank Sue Davnall and all the members of the Strategic Review Team for their hard work in producing this excellent report. Thanks also to all the refugees, volunteers, supporters and partners of Sevenoaks Welcomes Refugees that have contributed to making this such a rich and varied document which has given the Trustees plenty of food for thought.

The Trustees accept the findings and recommendations of the Strategic Review in full. There is a lot to consider so the Trustees will first look at those recommendations which require the most discussion, as follows:

i) property/landlord & host recruitment;

ii) drawing up a route map for refugee independence, and

iii) recruitment, induction and training of volunteers. 

A team will also be set up to help the Trustees manage the change process”.

Doug Ellish, Chris Hix, David Hinks, Jeanette Nunn, Humphrey Pring, David Skinner, Jude Thompson and Sue Baxter (Secretary to the Trustees).

Versions of the Executive Summary will be produced in the languages of the refugees we are helping to support.

Saturday May 20 - We are looking for more landlords and hosts!

Following the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban in August 2021, many Afghans who had worked with the British army or government, or who were seen as particularly at risk, were evacuated and allowed to settle in the UK. They were allowed to bring their immediate families with them. Many of these families are still in temporary bridging accommodation and there is an urgent need to find suitable private sector rented accommodation for them to move to.

Working together with KCC, SDC and STC we are urgently seeking landlords with properties to rent to refugee families under the government’s resettlement schemes. You will be paid rent up to the Local Housing Allowance rates and significant additional incentive payments are available – see the attached leaflet [CLICK HERE] and contact info@sevenoakswelcomesrefugees.org for further details.

The leaflet is specific to the Afghan scheme but everything in it applies to the UK Resettlement Scheme (UKRS) too.

We are also urgently seeking more hosts for the Ukraine scheme - contact info@sevenoakswelcomesrefugees.org for further details.

Friday May 4 - Cultures Together in Harmony - the programme is out now!

See the full programme here

Monday March 20 - SWR named 'Charity Project of the Year' at Sevenoaks District Council's 2023 awards

On Wednesday 15 March, Sevenoaks Welcomes Refugees was named as ‘Charity Project of the Year’ at Sevenoaks District Council’s ‘Making it Happen’ Community and Voluntary awards 2023 for its work helping to support refugees from Ukraine. Simon Evans writes:


"Bob Sinclair and I were delighted to be invited as nominees to SDC’s ‘Making it Happen’ award ceremony last week and even more thrilled to have won the awards for ‘Charity Project of the Year’, as well as a personal award for Bob, in recognition of SWR’s work with Ukrainian refugees. Cllr Dyball said some lovely and moving words in her commendation but I was particularly pleased that she emphasised our work in making their resettlement “as smooth as possible”. 


The sheer speed and scale of the Ukraine operation meant that this was never going to be perfect or even straightforward. I think we all knew this from the outset and there have been tough problems, difficult conversations and heartbreaking pain to contend with alongside an equal amount of genuine love and warmth. I sincerely believe however that the end result has been a good one and that the resources and influence of SWR have been brought to bear on making a real difference to a lot of lives.


We are very grateful indeed for the recognition but both agree that very little would have been possible without the very much more amazing efforts of the hosts who have willingly given so much to support their guests and we salute them mightily. It has been a great honour for both of us to have worked on this wonderful initiative. 


We would also like to thank all the people who have made donations that enabled the grants that have been part of SWR’s work with Ukrainian refugees."

Monday March 20 - David Skinner elected as Trustee

Following an online/email poll of the SWR network, and a vote by the trustees, David Skinner has been appointed a trustee of Sevenoaks Welcomes Refugees. The current trustees thank David very much for stepping forward to take on this role and look forward to working with him.

Thank you for participating in the election.  

Friday February 24 - New Trustee Application - please vote below 

We are sorry to announce that Guy Knight and Bob Sinclair are standing down as Trustees. We are enormously grateful to both Guy and Bob for all that they have done for Sevenoaks Welcomes Refugees.

Guy has been a Trustee since SWR was granted registered charity status in June 2019. Prior to that he had been a member of the core group from September 2018.  In addition to his other Trustee work Guy has led on writing policies, dealing with insurance renewals, and risk assessments. Guy was a start-up member of the Safeguarding and Wellbeing group, has been SWR’s data owner, and a member of the Google Workspace project team.  We are very pleased that Guy is staying on as a volunteer, with a focus on recruitment administration.    

Bob has been a Trustee since December 2019 and in addition to his other Trustee work has led on finding jobs and training. He has also been a member of SWR’s core Ukraine group and has led our liaison with SDC and KCC.

Both Guy and Bob have made enormous contributions to the development of SWR and the refugee resettlement programme in our area. Thank you, Guy and Bob, for all that you have done.

New trustee application – you are asked to vote on this proposal

We are pleased to announce that David Skinner has applied to be a Trustee. Our Constitution requires that all Trustees must be elected by the SWR network of refugees, volunteers and supporters. The Trustees support David’s application and propose to you that he be confirmed in this role.

This is David’s profile:

“I retired in 2020 after 16 years with Save the Children. I was Save the Children's Global Education Director, Country Director first for Afghanistan and then for Pakistan, and Team Leader for the Response to the Rohingya Crisis in Bangladesh. While at Save the Children I was also deployed during the Ebola crisis to Sierra Leone. Since retiring, I deployed again, within the UN architecture, for three months to Kyiv to set up the coordination of the education aspects of the entire international response to the crisis in Ukraine.

I am currently also chair of the statutory Independent Monitoring Board of HMP Maidstone, one of three prisons in the country to house only foreign nationals.”

Please click on the link below to vote on this proposal by 6:00 pm on Saturday 4 March: 


https://forms.gle/H8iEqd1M9xU7T1rw9

  

If you have any problems voting, simply email the normal SWR email address to register your vote info@sevenoakswelcomesrefugees.org


Friday February 24 - Sevenoaks Welcomes Refugees Strategic Review

Sevenoaks Welcomes Refugees was established in 2017 initially to support refugees from Syria resettling in the Sevenoaks district as part what is now the UK Government's global UK Resettlement Scheme. Over time SWR’s remit has expanded and adapted to support refugees from Afghanistan and Ukraine too.


The Trustees have now commissioned a review of the strategy and operation of SWR to ensure that it is best placed to meet its current objectives and future challenges. The review will be conducted by a team of volunteers from the SWR community and will involve interviews with refugees, volunteers, key partners and other interested parties, alongside a membership survey. Further details will be published in due course, and the review team is looking forward to hearing from you.


Sue Davnall will be leading the review. Sue is a volunteer with one of the family teams and lives in Kemsing with her husband. She has three grown-up children. Before retiring from the Civil Service she participated in and/or led many Departmental and cross-Whitehall reviews and projects, and in her spare time is heavily involved in her local amateur theatre group.


The Trustees are very grateful to Sue and all the members of the review team for stepping forward to take on this important project. 

Tuesday February 14 - Shoreham fundraising event for Turkey/Syria Earthquake Appeal on Saturday February 18

Residents in Shoreham are holding a fundraising event for the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) appeal at Shoreham Village Hall on Saturday 18th February from 9.30 until 12.30. If you are able to support this community effort, they would be very pleased to see you and can promise a great array of cakes and some interesting novels on their book stall. There is also a raffle and refreshments will be served. They are working on a few other activities depending on how many helpers they can muster!

If you would like to assist on the day, let us know via info@sevenoakswelcomesrefugees.org and we will pass on your interest.

Saturday February 11 - Turkey/Syria Earthquake Appeal

There is now a huge, desperate humanitarian effort to help families suffering the consequences of this week’s earthquakes. The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) has launched an appeal. If you would like to help, we encourage you to donate to their appeal here

Several of the Syrian families now resettling in the Sevenoaks district area have family and friends in the affected area. With the disruption caused to mobile phone comms and electricity, some of the families here don’t yet have a clear picture of what’s happened to their loved ones.

Our volunteer teams are doing everything they can to comfort and support them at this terrible time.

More than five million people in Syria may have been left homeless by this week's deadly earthquakes, according to an estimate by UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency. 

Monday February 6 - Recital in aid of SWR

Violin and Piano Benefit Recital in aid of SWR

We are very grateful indeed to Lachlan Edwards and Maria Tarasewicz for arranging this Violin and Piano Benefit Recital in aid of Sevenoaks Welcomes Refugees. It is on Sunday 26 February 2023 at 2 pm in the Pamoja Hall, Sevenoaks School.

Admission is free, please reserve in advance as strong demand is anticipated.

RSVP: boxoffice@sevenoaksschool.org

Lachlan and Maria ask that you please consider giving to SWR via this JustGiving page:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/lachlan-edwards


Friday January 27 - help wanted with a strategy review

Sevenoaks Welcomes Refugees (SWR) has been in existence for more than five years and it has grown and adapted. In part because of the way the different Government resettlement schemes are set up, the support provided for refugees from Afghanistan, Syria and Ukraine varies significantly in both type and quantity.

SWR has also learned a great deal about what it is best placed to provide, and what it cannot provide. The Trustees are therefore commissioning a review of the strategy and operation of SWR to ensure that it is best placed to achieve its objectives.

The review will take 10 weeks.

We are looking for someone to lead the review, and for people to be part of a small support team. These roles are voluntary and not accompanied by any financial remuneration. Expenses are payable for legitimate expenditure if agreed in advance with the finance Trustee.

To lead the review we are looking for someone with experience of strategic work and helping small organisations to evolve as they grow. Ideally, you will have experience of charities, but this is not essential.

To support the review we are looking for someone to manage the process, draft the key documents and organise any volunteer support to the review process. We are also looking for three additional interviewers who can undertake some of the structured interviews.

The review lead and support team should be people who can devote time for a short but intense period and who – preferably – are already familiar with SWR.

If you might be interested in leading the review or being part of the support team and would like to talk about this, please email us at info@sevenoakswelcomesrefugees.org to arrange a discussion with the Trustees setting up the review. We will then send you the Terms of Reference for the review.

The deadline for expressions of interest (review lead and support team) is end of Sunday 5 February.

Please circulate this call out amongst your own networks.

You can read more about Sevenoaks Welcomes Refugees and what we’re doing on our website www.sevenoakswelcomesrefugees.org

Thank you.

Thursday January 26 - you can now raise money for us using easyfundraising

You can raise FREE donations for Sevenoaks Welcomes Refugees EVERY time you shop online. Just use easyfundraising!

Over 7,000 brands will donate, including all the big names like Marks & Spencer, John Lewis & Partners, BT, Expedia, Argos, ASOS, Just Eat, Uswitch and many more!

See our Donate page for more details or click here to sign up now, it takes only a few seconds and doesn't cost you a penny. Thank you!


Wednesday 7 December - looking for more hosts

Please see the attached poster (produced by SDC) for more hosts to help Ukraine families that are coming to the District. 

The payment is until the end of March to cover winter fuel costs. We are awaiting to hear to see if this payment will stay the same from 1 April 2023.

SDC will be holding 2 x host events in the New Year. Venues tbc but please hold the date for:

Wednesday 18 January 18.30 – 20.30 Swanley (Venue tbc)

Thursday 19 January 18.30 – 20.30 Sevenoaks (Venue tbc)

Thank you!



Sunday 27 November - successful clothes fair at St Luke's Church Hall 

The project started by Amanda Hebbert asking individual boarding houses at Sevenoaks School, with the items collected being distributed to various people. 

Having had a certain amount of success, the project was expanded to a request for a school wide clothing collection. This project was put into the hands of pupils who put out a call for clothing to all parents before half term and the parents responded magnificently. A space was provided for clothes sorting and the team worked quickly sorting it into sensible categories. Initially people could choose and collect clothing from Granville Road but the volume of clothing was making it harder to do so. 

St Luke’s Church Hall was generously made available to us and we held the clothing fair on the afternoon of 23rd November which was well attended by both members of the local community and refugees. The remainder of the clothing will be sorted into clothing suitable to go to Lviv for displaced people and the rest to be sold to raise funds for Sevenoaks Welcomes Refugees. 

Many thanks to Homa Ansari from SWR who gave useful advice and helped to fill the gaps in the clothing, St Luke’s Church and the many people who volunteered to help on the 23rd, and Sevenoaks School parents and the pupils and staff who helped to supply and sort the clothing.

Christmas Fair, St Mary Kippington: Saturday 19 November

On Saturday 19th November 1.00 - 4.00pm St. Mary’s Kippington is holding its Christmas Fair in the Parish Centre. 

Part of the proceeds will be donated to Sevenoaks Welcomes Refugees – we are very grateful indeed for this support. 

Please go along and support the event if you can.

The church will be open all week for donations: chocolates and bottles for the tombola and raffle would be very gratefully received.

Address and contact details: Church of St. Mary Kippington, Kippington Road, Sevenoaks TN13 2LL. Telephone 01732 451117

STMARYSSEVENOAKS.ORG


Tuesday 8 November - Update from our Language Team

The Language team is currently working on a number of new initiatives that will be open to all of the refugees that we are helping to support. The Vine Evangelical Church has very generously offered us the use of their hall. This will enable us to run group English sessions and also classes to prepare our refugees who need to pass the 'SELT English Test' and 'Life in the UK' before they can apply for citizenship. It is envisaged that the English lessons will be differentiated according to the level of those participating.

The second initiative is that we now have access to a new 'online' learning platform for English. This platform is currently being developed by the Fair Access group at KCC. Once again, this will be made available to all refugees should they wish to participate. This platform can be accessed from any device - tablet, laptop etc, at any time from anywhere (where internet is available). The language team will be able to set assignments remotely, monitor student work and also assess progress. Our Language team is currently familiarising themselves with this platform ready for 'rollout' in the next couple of weeks.

 We are delighted to have been given free access to 'Little Bridge', an online platform for children aged 6-16 and it is designed to support children's reading and English acquisition.


Finally, a reminder that we can provide links to enable students from Ukraine to continue accessing and studying the Ukrainian school curriculum and also preparing for their Ukrainian school exams. 

 

Please contact the Language team should you require further information about any of these initiatives. 

Tuesday 8 November - we urgently need more volunteers!

Family team and language volunteers in Swanley and New Ash Green 

Our most urgent requirement is for family team and language volunteers in Swanley (2 refugee families) and New Ash Green (3 refugee families). If you are able to help, or know people in the Swanley and New Ash Green areas that might be able to, please get in touch.

Fundraising lead

With a growing number of families in our area, our need for funds has never been greater. We need someone to take forward our successful fundraising programme, which to date has involved concerts, cookbooks, Dragon Boat Races and many other events and activities. The fundraising lead will help us make the most of these, and develop other, fundraising ideas.

JustGiving account manager

We are looking for someone with experience of managing a JustGiving account. JustGiving is an online platform for donations. We find it very useful indeed, and now need a volunteer to help us make the most of what JustGiving can do for us.

If you’d like to apply for any of these vacancies, or would welcome a chat to find out more, please contact us. 

If these 3 roles aren’t for you but you’d like to get involved, please see our Volunteer page for many other roles.


Friday 14 October - Sevenoaks Welcomes Refugees stand at the Sevenoaks Business Show

Steve Shaw

 

Thanks to the generosity of local business FM Conway, we were able to have a stand at the Sevenoaks Business Show, held in the town’s Bat & Ball Centre on Friday 14th October.

 

Our aim in being at the Business Show was to build contacts with companies interested in helping us with volunteer recruitment, fundraising (e.g. selling our Syrian Spoon fundraiser cookbook), finding work/training opportunities for the refugees, and general publicity.

 

Exhibitors at the event, which was organised by the Sevenoaks Town Team, included 30 local businesses, other charities and local government bodies. It was a great opportunity for us to showcase to the local business community the work we are doing to help support Syrian, Afghan and Ukrainian refugee families in our area.

 

The show was opened by Andrew Eyre, Chairperson of Sevenoaks Town Team, and Laura Trott MBE, the Member of Parliament for Sevenoaks. We were delighted that Laura came over and spent several minutes chatting with us during the event. She was keen to hear about our progress and wanted to know what she could do to support our work. We were also visited by Rachel Parry, the Mayor of Sevenoaks, as well as a host of local business people and members of the public.

 

At our stand, which was staffed by 11 volunteers and trustees working in shifts throughout the day., we had a range of SWR flyers and a stock of our “Syrian Spoon” charity cookbook. We were delighted to be able to make several sales of the book during the event.

 

The event ran for 4 hours and was quite well attended. We received several very welcome offers of support during the day. Having the stand enabled us to showcase what we do, and also resulted in a number of interesting and potentially useful conversations which may, in the coming weeks, lead to further offers of support. Various members of the team have been following up on some of these conversations since the event.

 

If you would like to get involved in helping SWR build partnerships in the business community, please get in touch.

Thursday 29 September - Sevenoaks Town Council’s Proposal to be a ‘Town of Sanctuary’

Following a request from Cllr Libby Ancrum Sevenoaks Town Council considered at its meeting held on 26th September 2022 a proposal to initiate the process for obtaining ‘Town of Sanctuary’ status.

At the beginning of the meeting Mr Chris Hix, from Sevenoaks Welcomes Refugees addressed the Council and stated how much he welcomed the initiative. It was noted that much of the criteria (listed below) was already happening by a variety of organisations, including the Town Council and the process would provide recognition and publicity to all the work that was being done to assist with refugees in Sevenoaks.

It was agreed to form an initial Working Party and invite persons interested in being involved to contact the Town Clerk – townclerk@sevenoakstown.gov.uk

Please see Town of Sanctuary objective and criteria below:

Objective

The most important test for being a Town of Sanctuary is a positive experience of sanctuary seekers.

Terms of Reference

1. The local working group develops its own goals and strategy for meeting the criteria outlined below, in a way that is relevant to their situation. The group maintains regular contact with their regional network in order to share reports on progress, ideas, and resources.

2. When the local group believes it has achieved its initial goals, it submits an application to the City of Sanctuary Recognition Group, detailing how it believes it has met the criteria. Steering Group will be briefed at each meeting on progress of projects running and take action as appropriate:

Criteria

To be recognised as an official Town or City of Sanctuary, the local City of Sanctuary working group will need to achieve these four essential goals:

1. Resolutions of support from a significant and representative proportion of local groups and organisations. These should include a commitment to welcoming and including people seeking sanctuary in the groups’ activities, and evidence of practical efforts to build relationships between those seeking sanctuary and local people.

2. The support and involvement of local Refugee communities, and Refugee representation on the local City of Sanctuary working group.

3. Evidence of sustained engagement with the City Council (or other Local Authority).

4. A strategy, agreed by the main supporting organisations, for how the city is to continue working towards greater inclusion of Refugees and people seeking sanctuary. Continued progress will be measured by a three-yearly review process. In addition, the town or city should be able to demonstrate public awareness and involvement in support for people seeking sanctuary, through meeting a range of goals from the following list (or similar):

• Workshops for schools on sanctuary issues

• Other awareness raising events

• Social and cultural events where people seeking sanctuary and local people Interact

• Concerts and drama productions by Refugee artists

• Interfaith events promoting sanctuary and hospitality

• Community conflict resolution services for areas experiencing tension over new arrivals

• Work with local media to publicise positive stories of sanctuary seekers

• Positive programmes for new arrivals in the city

• Refugee community involvement in festivals and cultural events

• Programme of events and activities for Refugee Week

• Programmes for employment training and voluntary work

• Other projects which help Refugees to feel more welcome and included


Linda Larter MBE

Chief Executive / Town Clerk

27th September 2022.

Thursday 15 September - We are looking for a CHAIR OF TRUSTEES 

Sevenoaks Welcomes Refugees (SWR) is looking to appoint a new Chair to serve for 2-3 years and lead the next stage of the development of the charity. The role is unpaid. 


This is not a time of "business as usual" for Sevenoaks Welcomes Refugees. With the Ukraine crisis, and continuing growth in the numbers of families from Syria and Afghanistan, the charity is looking to refresh its strategy, plans and structures. 


Previous charity experience is not required. The two key requirements are experience of strategic leadership and a strong desire to provide the best refugee resettlement programme in the Sevenoaks district area that SWR, working with its local partners, possibly can. 


If you’d like a chat about the role, or have any questions, please contact Jude Thompson heyjude287@googlemail.com


The closing date for applications is Wednesday 30 November. 

Tuesday 13 September - Dragon Boat Race, more donations welcome 

Volunteers, friends  and supporters of Sevenoaks Welcomes Refugees joined together on Sunday the 4th September to participate in this year's Tonbridge Annual Dragon Boat Event and family fun day on the River Medway in Tonbridge. This event was run for the ninth year by the Tonbridge Lions Club. 

Our Team of 21 enthusiastic paddlers participated in three highly competitive races.  Sadly we did not make it to the final three, but fun was had by all - even one of our paddlers who only answered "Yes" when asked to participate because he thought that  "Dragon Boat! was a Chinese Restaurant!! However he had a great day and is looking forward to next year's event!

We managed to raise money on the day and through sponsorship in support our Afghan, Syrian and Ukrainian families. If you have not yet donated and are in a position to do so, please visit our Just giving page below: 

https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/SWRDragonBoat2022?invite=true

Thank you!

Monday 22 August - urgent need for more accommodation for refugees


Please can you help Nastasiya and her two children?

Nastasiya [not her real name] lived with her husband and two young children in Zaporizhia in Ukraine since birth. Nastasiya and her children have been forced to flee due to the Russian invasion and are currently living in a small, overcrowded hostel close to the Polish border. Her parents did not want to leave, and her husband is fighting with the Ukrainian army on the front-line.  He urged her to leave to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their 8- and 6-year-old children. Nastasiya contacted Sevenoaks Welcomes Refugees [SWR] asking if we can help find a host willing to accommodate her as she has a friend already living in the Sevenoaks area. 

SWR receives such appeals on a regular basis from families in Ukraine, but we are currently not able to help as we need more families able to host a refugee family under the Government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme. Residents in the Sevenoaks District area are currently providing accommodation to nearly 200 Ukrainian families which is a fantastic achievement, but there is still an urgent need for more. Please can you help? If you are hesitating and feel that you need more information about how the Homes for Ukraine Scheme works, then please get in contact with us and somebody can talk to you and give you more information. Although the main demand is for homes with two or more rooms, even if you can only offer one room, then we can help a mother with a small child. There are four families from Ukraine, currently in Ukraine or the region, on our waiting list for a host right now.

Stuck in a hotel room in Slough for nearly 12 months with two children.

That is the reality of the conditions that hundreds of Afghans are still living under after having qualified to be airlifted from Kabul due to their work for British organisations under the Government’s Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) scheme. We have recently been able to provide homes for two more Afghan families to allow them to escape the claustrophobic conditions of hotel rooms, but many families remain in this limbo. Although they are ‘safe’ and not suffering retribution at the hands of the Taliban in Afghanistan, more needs to be done to settle them in a proper home. If you have a property that is available for rent that could be offered to an Afghan family, or if you know somebody in that position, then please do contact us so that we can explain in more detail how we can help. 

We are also looking to find rented properties for some more of the Syrian refugees still living in miserable conditions in the countries surrounding Syria: mainly in Turkey, but also in Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. You can see the latest data from UNHCR here.

If you are a landlord considering renting to the schemes, you can find further information on our website here: landlord information.

For potential hosts and potential landlords, we can arrange for you to speak directly to current hosts/landlords and hear from them about their experience.  

Saturday 9 July - update on numbers

With your tremendous support, we are currently helping 9 families from Syria and Afghanistan. An additional property has been approved for a family from Afghanistan, and the family will be moving in shortly. From Ukraine, 35 families have now been matched with local host families, of whom 23 families have arrived. Thank you for supporting the resettlement of refugees in our area.

Saturday 9 July - World Refugee Day: SWR one of 170 signatories to letter condemning the Rwanda scheme

On Monday 20 June, World Refugee Day, as leaders from all over the world prepared for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Rwanda, over 170 organisations (including groups led by refugees, human rights organisations, international development agencies, major faiths, women's groups & regional & local service and campaign NGOs from all over the UK) signed a Letter to the Editor of The Independent newspaper to show that they "stand in condemnation of the UK government’s disturbing Rwanda scheme". Sevenoaks Welcomes Refugees was one of the 170 organisations who signed this letter.

https://togetherwithrefugees.org.uk/we-stand-in-condemnation-of-the-disturbing-rwanda-scheme-our-coalition-letter-to-the-editor/

A few days earlier, we had written to Mrs Laura Trott MP expressing our great concern about the UK government’s Rwanda scheme. This is our email to Mrs Trott [LINK].


Friday 17 June - 'The Syrian Spoon' cook book is now available!

Our new vegetarian cookbook is out now! 

The Syrian Spoon is a brand-new cookbook jointly produced by Sevenoaks School working together with Sevenoaks Welcomes Refugees and local refugees Mouna and Khaled. For just £12 you can read their story and try some of their delicious recipes. All profits go towards SWR, helping displaced people settle into our community. The easiest way to give back… Be quick! These are limited edition only!

We hope you enjoy these flavours from our homeland, find your passion for cooking this delicious healthy food and share it with your family and friends, just as we enjoy sharing it with ours!”  - Khaled & Mouna

From falafel to stuffed peppers and Syrian cake, there’s something for all tastes. Available at COOK Sevenoaks, The Chocolate Shop, Sevenoaks Bookshop and Deniz in Seal, or you can buy it online here: https://www.empathyaction.org/empathystore/p/syrian-vegetarian-cook-book-standard-edition

(Additional charge for packing, postage and handling for online sales - see the Empathy Action website for details.)

Monday 13 June - World Refugee Day on June 20th

UNHCR World Refugee Day is an international day designated by the United Nations to honour refugees around the globe. It falls each year on June 20 and celebrates the strength and courage of people who have been forced to flee their home country to escape conflict or persecution. 

If you disagree with the UK Government's policies towards refugees - for example the forcible deportation of asylum seekers to Rwanda, the lack of safe and legal routes available for vulnerable people still in Afghanistan to reach the UK, the fact that around 12,000 Afghan refugees, including children, are stuck living in hotels across the UK waiting for permanent housing more than seven months since they were evacuated from Kabul, the apparent loss of interest in resettling additional vulnerable Syrian refugees in the UK, the unwillingness to make Local Housing Allowance available to refugees from Ukraine – you could mark UNHCR World Refugee Day by writing to the MP for Sevenoaks Mrs Trott MP to let her know your views.  

You can contact Mrs Trott via email at laura.trott.mp@parliament.uk and by post at House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA. Please include your postcode, so that Mrs Trott's office know that you live in the Sevenoaks constituency.

Monday 13 June - Short update on the current situation

We are very appreciative of the tremendously compassionate and generous outpouring of support being provided to the resettlement of refugees in the Sevenoaks District Council area at this time. All the various contributions are making a real difference: volunteers giving their time, financial donations, hosts taking refugees into their own homes, and landlords making rented property available to the schemes. 

On Ukraine, we are currently liaising with 37 hosts, and this could rise to 45 over the next few weeks, giving shelter to 110 refugees from Ukraine. Other local organisations, such as Care For Our Community Ukraine, Sevenoaks In Support of Ukraine and many churches are also liaising with hosts. 

On Syria and Afghanistan, there are currently 8 families living in our area, resettling here under the official Government schemes. A further 2 families from Afghanistan are in transit to rented properties that have recently been made available to the schemes and will be arriving in the next few weeks. That will take the number of refugees from Syria and Afghanistan resettling in our area to 60. 

Sunday 12 June - Sevenoaks Philharmonic Choir with Sevenoaks Philharmonic Orchestra concert for Ukraine on Sunday 19 June at the Stag Theatre, Sevenoaks

On Sunday 19 June at 7.30pm Sevenoaks Philharmonic Choir and Sevenoaks Philharmonic Orchestra perform Karl Jenkins’ "The Armed Man - A Mass for Peace" at the Stag Theatre, Sevenoaks. This is an exciting and impassioned plea for peace. Written at the time of the Kosovo conflict it is as relevant today and this performance is dedicated to the people of Ukraine.

The organisers have added to the concert two short pieces with a Ukrainian theme and there will be a collection at the end of the concert in aid of UNICEF's work with children and families on the ground in Ukraine. 

The organisers have agreed to make 25 tickets available free of charge to Ukrainian refugees who may wish to attend this fantastic concert on 19 June which is being dedicated to the people of Ukraine.  The organisers have also agreed that hosts may have one ticket free of charge per household.  These tickets will be provided on a first come first served basis. 

Sunday 12 June - West Kent MIND Mental Health Awareness Workshop, in Sevenoaks on Monday 4 July

There are still places available on the workshop being held at the SDC council offices in Sevenoaks on Monday 4 July, 4:00 – 7:00 pm. Other dates are available on Zoom. We encourage all hosts to attend this workshop. 

SWR volunteer Guy has attended the course and told us: "I went on the mental health awareness course being run by West Kent Mind trainers. It was for three hours and insightful to recognising when people may be displaying mental health symptoms. There was a good range of attendees with different life skills. I took away two things: firstly the importance of connection; and secondly that whatever pressures we are under we must look after ourselves to reduce possible mental health in ourselves".

See here for more details and to sign up: https://westkentmind.org.uk/i-want-to-learn/training-courses/mh-awareness-supporting-ukrainian-refugees/


Tuesday 24 May - Job & training fair coming to Sevenoaks, June 14th.

Tuesday 19 April - Sevenoaks Town Council and the Queen's Platinum Jubilee Beacon Trail, 30 April to 12 June

We are delighted to have been chosen by Sevenoaks Town Council to be the supported charity in this free, family outdoor adventure initiative that they are running as part of celebrations for the Queen's Platinum Jubilee.

The website for the trail describes the initiative: “The trail is an experience where players visit 7 characters that have come to life from Buckingham Palace and are visiting your location on a day out. As you spot each of the 7 characters around your location, you can scan unique QR codes to engage with the story and answer questions to choose how it progresses. You’ll also get to learn about a different decade in Her Majesty’s 70-year reign from each character. Finally, you’ll also be able to engage with the characters as they come to life in AR. Once you’ve collected all 7 stamps you’ll be rewarded with the conclusion to the adventure and be able to take selfies with digital prize badges ‘pinned’ to yourself.”

For more information visit highstreetsafari.com/platinumjubilee

Many thanks to Sevenoaks Town Council for this opportunity to raise awareness for Sevenoaks Welcomes Refugees and the refugee resettlement programmes in our area.


Sunday 17 April - New properties for refugees from Syria and Afghanistan


Discussions are making progress on two additional properties, generously offered by landlords for rental by refugee families. We understand that these will be allocated to families from Afghanistan [allocation decisions are made by KCC and SDC]. We hope to finalise these discussions soon. A further property is expected to be available by the end of June. Should all proceed as is expected, this will bring the total number of houses in the Government’s resettlement schemes to 11. 

The generous support of local landlords and volunteers is enabling a growing number of refugee families to resettle in the Sevenoaks district area. But we are deeply concerned about refugees from Syria and Afghanistan (and so many other places), who risk being forgotten in the Ukrainian crisis.  There are still enormous numbers of vulnerable people displaced by the war in Syria – see this UNHCR link - living in miserable conditions in neighbouring countries, and it is unclear to us how the government plans to help them.  The Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme for the most vulnerable and at-risk people from Afghanistan – not those who benefited from the initial airlift - was due to start in "the spring"; we are keen to learn what this scheme will be.  

If you can assist by offering a house for rental to a family, please do get in touch with us to discuss - the need remains acute. For more information please visit the Landlords page of our website here.

Sunday 17 April - Thank you to Waitrose


We have recently received a very generous donation of £500 from Waitrose Sevenoaks. We are extremely grateful for this gift and will ensure that the money is put to good use in support of refugees resettling in our area. Many thanks to all the team at Waitrose Sevenoaks!

Thursday 7 April - DONATIONS

We are very grateful for the many donations that we continue to receive, large and small, as regular, occasional or one-off gifts. The graphic below shows how we have spent the money and what a difference this has made to the refugee families in our area:

The number of families from Syria and Afghanistan that we are helping to support in our area has doubled in the last few months, and we are now preparing to help families from Ukraine. Regular donations would give us a consistent, predictable income, so we can plan and budget better and therefore be more efficient. 

If you can, please consider setting up a monthly standing order to Sevenoaks Welcomes Refugees - details here. Thank you.

Friday 1 April - SPRING NEWSLETTER 2022 


Thank you for coming to the Spring Meeting


Firstly, a big ‘thank you’ to all who were able to come to our Spring Meeting on Wednesday 23 March. With about 90 people in the room and about 20 attending by Zoom it was our largest attendance so far for one of our quarterly meetings. Our thoughts are very much on the Ukraine crisis and our emerging plans, but we had a fascinating presentation and panel discussion on Afghanistan, with key contributions from members of families recently arrived from Afghanistan. 

And in the fundraising update we heard about the soon-to-be-launched vegetarian cookbook ‘The Syrian Spoon: Syrian Vegetarian Recipes From Our New Home in Sevenoaks’, produced together by a Syrian family and students from Sevenoaks School. We will continue to do our best to help all refugees and asylum seekers in our area, wherever they have come from. A short summary of the meeting will be published in the next few days.

Ukraine – what is Sevenoaks Welcomes Refugees doing, and how can you help?


Sevenoaks Welcomes Refugees (SWR) is working closely with other community groups, Kent County Council (KCC), Sevenoaks District Council (SDC) and Mrs Laura Trott MP on how best to support refugees from Ukraine. There is an enormous amount of compassion and energy in our area, with so many keen to help. Given the scale of the crisis, SWR is urgently looking for more volunteers to get involved in the support programme: please contact us or fill in the volunteer sign-up form at https://www.sevenoakswelcomesrefugees.org/get-involved/volunteers


Many thanks to all the new people who have recently got in touch offering to help (we are processing your applications as quickly as we can), to work alongside our amazing team of active volunteers. 

And many thanks also to all the people who have let us know that they are offering accommodation to refugees, and have registered these offers on the Government’s Homes For Ukraine website. 

Two of the biggest challenges with the Ukraine response right now are matchmaking and the visa application process. The Government has said that it will pair people offering accommodation with refugees seeking accommodation, but Government matchmaking is not yet happening. And we have heard from supporters of the great difficulties and delays they – and their contacts – are experiencing with the visa application process. 

 

We have agreed a joined-up approach with Sevenoaks District Council (SDC) and Care for our Community (CFOC) to ensure maximum coordination. We are keen to work with other organisations and networks – if you can help, please get in touch.


SWR will develop whatever systems and processes we need to coordinate support in our area.  We endeavour to extend our support to all hosts and refugees who request it of us.  We will need to significantly grow our resources in order to do this.

 


We will engage with hosts to establish what level of support they are able to offer to the refugees they accommodate, and will strive to fill any gaps.  In cooperation with KCC, SDC, CFOC and other groups, we will provide signposting so that the refugees can be registered for the services such as schools, benefits and healthcare.


On 18 March we registered Sevenoaks Welcomes Refugees’ interest in becoming a sponsor, to help connect people offering accommodation with people seeking accommodation. We are now waiting for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) to invite us to apply to be a sponsor. Once our application has been accepted (we have no idea how long this will take) we understand we will be connected to people needing accommodation.


The UK Government has said that the Homes for Ukraine website will connect people offering accommodation with people seeking accommodation. So because we are a small team with limited resources we do not propose to try and make these connections ourselves – we would be duplicating what the Government says it is doing, and we are worried about receiving a volume of requests that we could not handle efficiently. We will go on trying to connect those refugees whose details we already have, and from now on encourage everyone who has details of refugees needing accommodation to enter them on the Government’s Homes For Ukraine website. Some connections between accommodation-givers and accommodation-seekers are being made on the Sevenoaks Welcomes Refugees Facebook group, unfacilitated by SWR volunteers: we welcome and support this, but we do not have the resources to coordinate it.


Kent County Council has set up a useful website on the Ukraine response here


Within all of this, it’s also important to realise that refugees are very vulnerable people. They have had a very traumatic experience, especially the children, and need to adapt to a different way of life rapidly. All of which means that they need a lot of sensitive care and support. 


We need more volunteers


With the Ukrainian scheme we are calling out for more volunteers as the number of refugees increase.  And for those long-serving volunteers who have been with us for some time, thank you; could you spare a bit more of your time? We need volunteers to help us in all aspects of our work from supporting refugee families to a host of new initiatives we want to do.  Currently we are constrained as do not have the resources to do many important things.  Some areas where we need more help are: providing general befriending and English-teaching support to refugee families; fundraising projects e.g. launching a vegetarian cookbook ‘The Syrian Spoon: Syrian Vegetarian Recipes From Our New Home in Sevenoaks’, produced together by a Syrian family and students from Sevenoaks School; and establishing links with local partners such as Churches and local businesses. If you can help, please get in touch.


Nationality and Borders Bill


We are deeply concerned that the House of Lords amendments to the Nationality and Borders Bill were rejected in the Commons last week (week ending Friday 25 March).  This would mean for example that a Ukrainian asylum seeker arriving in the UK through an unofficial route would be criminalised.  It also provides no safe routes for unaccompanied child refugees to reach the UK.  Pressing ahead with the harsh provisions in this bill seems totally at odds with the wishes of so many people in the UK to provide a welcome to vulnerable people.  Clauses to allow refugees to be sent offshore and detained indefinitely seem to us both inhumane and questionable under international law.   We would urge the government to think again on this.


Syria and Afghanistan


We are also deeply concerned about refugees from Syria and Afghanistan (and so many other places), who risk being forgotten in the Ukrainian crisis.  There are still enormous numbers of vulnerable people displaced by the war in Syria, and it is unclear to us how the government plans to help them.  And the scheme for Afghans beyond those who benefited from the initial airlift was due to start in "the spring"; we are keen to learn what this scheme will be. And there are nearly 6 million refugees from Syria – including many highly vulnerable people - who, having fled the fighting in Syria, are living in miserable conditions in some of the surrounding countries. You see the numbers in this UNHCR website.


Vacancy Announcement – Chair, Sevenoaks Welcomes Refugees


We are looking to appoint a new Chair to serve for 2-3 years and lead the next stage of the development of Sevenoaks Welcomes Refugees. The current Chair, Simon Evans, wishes to continue as a Trustee but to focus on the operational challenges we face as the charity has grown rapidly in the last 6 months – and now face the challenge of responding to the Ukraine crisis. Ukraine aside, the number of refugee families we are helping to support has doubled, from 4 to 8, and we expect that more families from Syria, Afghanistan and Ukraine will arrive in the next 12 months. We will continue to do our best to help all refugees and asylum seekers in our area, wherever they have come from.  

The role description is here and also below and the closing date for applications is the end of Friday 29 April. If you are interested, please get in touch for an informal discussion with one of the Trustees via info@sevenoakswelcomesrefugees.org


Fundraising – please set up a regular monthly standing order


We are very grateful indeed for all the many donations that we continue to receive, large and small, as regular, occasional or one-off gifts. And we receive fantastic support for our major fundraising initiatives, such as our concert fundraisers and the Syrian recipe cookbook. And volunteers donate an amazing amount of their time to the refugee resettlement programme every day. 

The number of families that we are helping to support has doubled from 4 to 8 in the last few months, and we are hoping and planning for more families to arrive.  And now we face the great challenge of responding to the Ukraine crisis. Regular donations would give us a consistent, predictable income, so we can plan and budget better and therefore be more efficient. To help us support a growing number of refugee families in our area, we ask that all volunteers and supporters who haven't done this yet think seriously about setting up a regular monthly standing order payment of £10 per month (or whatever you can afford) to Sevenoaks Welcomes Refugees, and complete and return to us a Gift Aid form which you can find here. Donating through Gift Aid means we can claim an extra 25p for every £1 you give. It will not cost you any extra.

Our bank details are: 

Bank: Santander Bank  

Account name: Sevenoaks Welcomes Refugees

Sort code: 09-01-29  

Account number: 14272967

Registered Charity Number 1184120


RECRUITMENT NOTICE – CHAIR, SEVENOAKS WELCOMES REFUGEES 

Background 


We are looking to appoint a new Chair to serve for 2-3 years and lead the next stage of the development of the charity. The current Chair, Simon Evans, wishes to continue as a Trustee but to focus on the operational challenges we face as the charity has grown rapidly in the last 6 months – and we now face the challenge of responding to the Ukraine crisis. Ukraine aside, the number of refugee families we are helping to support has doubled, from 4 to 8, and we expect that more families from Syria, Afghanistan and Ukraine will arrive in the next 12 months. We will continue to do our best to help all refugees and asylum seekers in our area, wherever they have come from. 

A short profile of the charity is at Annex A to this note. 

You can read more on our website at www.sevenoakswelcomesrefugees.org 

Sevenoaks Welcomes Refugees currently has 9 Trustees (including the Chair). Since starting in March 2017, Sevenoaks Welcomes Refugees has had 4 Chairs/Co-Chairs, with people typically serving for 18-24 months and then stepping down for a variety of reasons, including lack of time due to changing family circumstances, leaving the country, and a preference to focus on a particular aspect of SWR’s work. 

Chairs March 2017 - September 2018 

Co-chairs Nina O’Farrell and Humphrey Pring [19 months] September 2018 - September 2020 

Chair Humphrey Pring [24 months] September 2020 - November 2021 

Co-chairs Jude Thompson and Simon Evans [15 months] November 2021 - present 

Chair Simon Evans and Jude Thompson are continuing as Trustees, and Humphrey Pring is standing for election as a Trustee for another term. We are open to joint applications from two people as Co-chairs. 


Role Description Chair, Sevenoaks Welcomes Refugees (SWR)


Remuneration: All Trustee positions, including the role of Chair, are voluntary and not accompanied by any financial remuneration. Expenses are payable. 

Location: Sevenoaks and the surrounding area, within the boundary of Sevenoaks District Council. 

Time commitment: The Chair will chair meetings of the Trustee Board, usually monthly, and quarterly open meetings for our volunteers, supporters and beneficiaries. The Chair will also have regular liaison (meetings, phone calls, emails) with the other members of the Trustee Board between meetings and represent SWR at various events and discussions/meetings with key stakeholders, supporters and new volunteers. Total expected to average up to 12-16 hours per week. 

Reporting to: The Chair reports to the Trustee Board. 



Objective


The Chair will lead, support, and hold to account the Trustee Board for the delivery of SWR’s agreed objectives. S/he will ensure that the Trustee Board functions effectively as a team and works closely with the wider volunteer and supporter membership of the charity. S/he will act as an ambassador and the public face of SWR in partnership with the Trustees. 



Core competencies that the Chair will need

 

● Strategic leadership; sets the direction and plans for the future 

● Impact and influence; leads by example and persuasion 

● Partnership and relationship building; works effectively with stakeholders 

● Integrity and ethics; sets the tone for Trustees and volunteers 

● Governance; ensuring that SWR is well run and complies with regulations and guidance 

● Managing for results: ensuring that SWR works to deliver its objectives 



Principal responsibilities of the Chair


Leadership 

● Provide leadership to SWR, the Trustee Board and the wider group, ensuring that SWR has maximum impact for its beneficiaries 

● Ensure that Trustee Board fulfils its duties and responsibilities for the effective governance of SWR

● Ensure that the Trustee Board operates within its agreed objectives, and provides a clear strategic direction for SWR 

● Ensure that the Trustee Board regularly reviews major risks and associated opportunities, and satisfies itself that systems are in place to take advantage of opportunities, and manage and mitigate the risks 

● Ensure that the Trustee Board fulfils its duties to ensure sound financial health of SWR, with systems in place to ensure financial accountability 


Governance 

● Ensure that the governance arrangements are working in the most effective way for SWR 

● Ensure that the SWR Constitution is adhered to, and that SWR complies with the requirements of the Charity Commission 

● Develop the knowledge and capability of the Trustee Board 

● Encourage positive change where appropriate 

● Address and resolve any conflicts within the Trustee Board 

● Ensure that the Trustee Board is regularly refreshed and incorporates the right balance of skills, knowledge and experience needed to govern and lead SWR effectively, and which also reflects the wider population 

● Work within the policies of SWR 


External Relations 

● Act as an ambassador for SWR and for the cause of refugees and asylum seekers more widely 

● Maintain close relationships with key members of Kent County Council, Sevenoaks District Council, Clarion Housing, MP, other local refugee support groups, other relevant local authorities, and other key influencers 

● Act as a spokesperson for the organisation when appropriate 

● Represent SWR at external functions, meetings and events 

● Facilitate change and address any potential conflict with external stakeholders


Efficiency and effectiveness 

● Chair meetings of the Trustee Board effectively and efficiently, bringing impartiality and objectivity to the decision-making process 

● Ensure that Trustee Board members are fully engaged, that decisions are taken in the best, long-term interests of SWR and its target beneficiaries, and that the Trustee Board takes collective ownership 

● Foster and maintain constructive relationships with and among the Trustee Board members 

● Monitor that those decisions taken at meetings are implemented. 



Additional information 


The above list is indicative only and not exhaustive. The Chair will be expected to perform, or delegate, all such additional duties as are reasonably commensurate with the role, with a clear focus on leadership rather than operational delivery. 



Application process and deadline for applications


 Please submit a short personal profile, and statement of why you are applying, by the end of Friday 29 April to info@sevenoakswelcomesrefugees.org


The personal profile should be in the style of the Trustee profiles on the About Us page of the SWR website here

Shortlisted candidates will be invited to an interview in May. 



Annex A Sevenoaks Welcomes Refugees 


Sevenoaks Welcomes Refugees is a local charity formed in 2017 – originally to help support refugees from Syria resettling in the Sevenoaks district, as part of the UK Government's Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (SVPRS). That scheme has now evolved into the Government's global UK Resettlement Scheme, and we are also involved in helping refugees from Afghanistan to resettle in our area. 


We are already planning to help the resettlement in our area of refugees and asylum seekers from Ukraine. 


Our 3 key needs are properties that can be rented to the scheme, active volunteers that can give us some hours of their time every now and then, and money (we make welfare grants to the families in our area). 


We are a small and growing organisation, with about 100 active volunteers. We are currently supporting the resettlement of 8 refugee families in the Sevenoaks district area and are hoping to find accommodation for further refugee families this year. We work in close partnership with Sevenoaks District Council, Kent County Council and the support agency Clarion Housing, who are commissioned by KCC. 


The Government resettlement schemes involve bringing particularly vulnerable refugees from the zone of conflict directly to resettle in the UK. We provide local practical support to refugee families in our area - welcoming, help with learning English, finding jobs, providing lifts, sourcing necessary household items, making small grants - and finding private-sector landlords willing to take part in the government-funded rent payment scheme. 


Funds raised to date have been spent on, for example, laptops, tablets, printers, Flash Academy licences for online learning, additional tutoring in mathematics and English, professional accountancy exams, assistance with rent deposit for one individual, travel costs for finding work, furniture, swimming lessons, a sewing machine, additional food expenditure at Eid and Christmas festivals, and other welfare grants. These small grants are helping all the families to thrive in a new country. 


We have made grants of £60,614 (to 31 March 2022) on family expenditure, educational support, social activities, housing improvements, fundraising and administration.