Refugee House

In 2019, after a lot of preparation, a Syrian refugee family were welcomed to Exeter by CHARIS Exeter.

CHARIS Exeter was a combined effort by Exeter Vineyard, Belmont Chapel and Exeter Network Church. It took part in a Government scheme to sponsor Syrian families; helping them move from refugee camps in the Middle East to resettle in the UK.

It has been a tremendous success and the father of the family has expressed his appreciation:

Good evening from Exeter, the city of beauty and quiet nature, the city of generous and friendly people, the city of love and beauty. My wife and I have three daughters and a son in this country. Our trip was due to displacement from my beloved country, Syria, a process that was caused by a fierce war that killed people and destroyed the stone. A war from which neither an old man nor a young child escaped from the sounds of explosions, the sounds of children’s screams, the crying of bereaved mothers and scenes of blood in the streets of my country, no longer filled with flowers of jasmine and the scent of roses.

Five years ago, my eldest daughter joined her husband in London, and the year after my second daughter joined her husband, also in London. Our sadness increased and life was difficult. We applied for immigration and chose to have our emigration to Britain. This was a long process, but in the end we arrived in Britain on 11th September 2019. We were met at Exeter Airport by a group of CHARIS group members who worked to secure the right home for us and the second surprise was when I met my eldest daughter and her family waiting for us at Exeter airport. We arrived at our new home and began our life in Exeter with friends renewed and a new world from the first moment.

CHARIS worked to provide all that we needed to arrange our medical and study appointments, and the organisation did everything in its power to make us happy and to secure our needs in full. Life began to change for us for the better and the most beautiful. Feelings of sadness and anxiety began to fade from our lives. I thank everyone who helped us reach safety and I hope for the next families a happy life and a good future under the auspices of CHARIS.

The three churches are now preparing to help a second family move out of a refugee camp and start a new life here in Exeter.

As with the first family, for this to happen we need the help of a team of volunteers. If you are interested in getting involved, here are some of the roles needed:

Benefits: We need the expertise of someone who has specialist knowledge of the benefits system and who would be prepared to assist with benefits over the two-year period of the sponsorship.

Housing Team: Someone with a good understanding of the local area and Local Authority would be a huge help in securing housing for the family prior to their arrival. We also need a large group of people for an intensive period to prepare and furnish the home. Practical, DIY or organisational skills would all be of benefit in this team

Budgeting/Finance: A small team are needed to help set up bank and utility accounts for the family and help them develop skills in managing their budget over the two-year course of the sponsorship.

Fundraising: Although we are in the fortunate position of having the required funds to proceed with our sponsorship application, we would like to maintain this and raise the profile of the work through fundraising activities.

Health: We need people who can help oversee the health appointments for the family and initially attend appointments with them. Depending on the health needs of the family this may be needed for a short period of time or over the course of two years.

English language provision: Working with the existing ESOL volunteers in sourcing English language lessons, this team will also assist the family with language practice over the course of the sponsorship period.

Language: Translation needs are highest in the months following the arrival of the family and volunteers are needed to help source and timetable Arabic translators for the family appointments. The time commitment will be intensive for several months but is then anticipated to diminish.

Education: Working with our existing education lead you will help to plan and co-ordinate school, college and adult education provision and the ongoing relationship with education providers and family

Befriending: This is the biggest team and involves helping in a variety of tasks so this role can often be more tailored in terms of your available time commitment.

Employment & Training: Anyone who can help with curating a CV, and applying for work or vocational courses, would be great on this team.

Admin & Communications: We would welcome someone with administrative and organisational skills who can help with the ongoing administration of the project.

All volunteers will be working under the guidance of our project manager and team leader. Training will be provided. Please note that volunteers will be asked to complete an application and will also be subject to a DBS check.

If you would like an informal chat with an existing volunteer from your church or would like further information and an application form, please contact your church office who will pass on your details.

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  1. Hi. I’d be interested to help with befriending. I have a heart for refugees and I was a qualified Social Worker mainly with adults and those with mental health issues for over 30 years. Though mostly retired I still do some sessional work with DPT.

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