Report from Lichfield District City of Sanctuary for Churches Together AGM 2022

What we’ve been up to

Here’s a report from Cathy Wood, co-leader of our Response Team

“At the heart of the organisation is our commitment to making Lichfield District a supportive place that provides sanctuary to all who need it, particularly vulnerable people, with our local refugee community at the heart of our work. Since forming in September 2019, a lot has happened. LDCoS was recruiting and reaching out to the local community when the pandemic struck. Undeterred, we kept meeting via Zoom and have, in the past 2 years:

Achieved Charitable Status – we are now a Charitable Incorporated Organisation

Appointed a Board of Trustees

Become an associate member of Staffordshire Council of Voluntary Youth Services and a member of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations

Recruited more than 40 local people and organisations as members who work diligently to provide support, welcome and sanctuary in the area

Set up a Response Group of members who work closely with our refugee families

Ensured that all members of the Response Group have Enhanced DBS certification status

Organised events to welcome members and raise funds for small business ‘start-ups’ (Syrian Food in Lichfield) and additional ESOL provision

Welcomed two Syrian refugees on to the charity’s management group

Welcomed Afghan families to Lichfield District

Lichfield District does not have many ‘officially recognised’ refugees although we would like to welcome more. This does, however, mean that in the absence of a settled refugee community to receive newcomers, the need for significant and consistent support from members of the host community, especially during the early days, is crucial. We work hard to get the balance right between direct support, working alongside and promoting independence. With the fourth anniversary of the arrival of our Syrian families just past, LDCoS volunteers continue to support by, as required:

Assisting with on-line forms – UC/Job Applications

Assisting with food shopping – there is no Halal provider in Lichfield

Providing transport to difficult-to-access medical appointments

Providing practical support – testing, delivering food, throughout Covid infection

Arranging leisure opportunities for children

Supporting with ESOL tuition

Fundraising to support business opportunities & enhanced ESOL provision

We are now working closely with both Afghan families – one since October, the other since January – and are supporting by:

Sourcing additional essential clothing, furniture and household items

Raising funds for TV licences

Supporting families with school and pre-school enrolment

Introducing families to local services – playgroups/library/community groups/food bank/leisure venues

Arranging ESOL classes with volunteer ESOL tutors

Assisting with on-line forms

Attending meetings with families

Supporting adults to access Covid booster vaccinations and essential hospital appointments

Many local people – members and otherwise – have contributed to the resettlement of our Afghan families with gifts of time, goods, expertise and friendship. No-one that we have asked for help has ever refused. They are touching many lives - as our Syrian families continue to do.

We have also been doing outreach into the Tamworth area where a family member of one of our Afghan adults was unceremoniously ‘dumped’ by Solihull Council, one night two weeks ago, along with his wife, elderly mother-in-law and four children in a budget hotel with no meal provision and no recourse to public funds.

So it’s busy – and it’s only going to get busier. But we love our work and it is wonderful to see our refugees growing and gaining in confidence and enriching our community with their culture, work ethic, hospitality and wonderful food! It’s a real privilege to know them.”

Offering a home to Ukrainian refugees

We are all grateful to local people who have already managed to – or are about to – register their interest. Thank you so much for doing that. We have received a number of offers that we have passed on where appropriate. However, we learnt a lesson when we spoke to the owner of a particularly attractive-sounding self-contained property that would have suited a Ukrainian couple that we know of. As keen as he sounded, he suddenly revealed that he would not host a man – only an unaccompanied woman with nursery-aged children. Of course, the conversation ended very quickly. But it showed the possible dangers for refugees – at the moment few checks are to be carried out on hosts – and possibly also for hosts. Refugee Action, the national charity has issued some useful advice on this.

Council recognition

The advent of new refugees, and possibly more people from Ukraine, makes it all the more imperative that we work closely with the local authorities – the three councils that cover our district. We have now instituted regular meetings the Cabinet Member for Community Issues, of Lichfield District Council and with Lichfield City Council. LCC has passed a resolution declaring “its support for the vision and principles of Lichfield District City of Sanctuary” and has appointed a cross-party group of representatives on the group. We have already had talks with members of Burntwood Town Council and hope soon to set up a similar formal relationship with them.

We lost our chair, the Rev. Helen Barton, recently due to personal reasons. Warren Bardsley steps up to be Acting Chair until the AGM.

We will be celebrating our first AGM (an event led by the Board of Trustees) on Saturday 25th June between 10.30 and 2.00 at Boley Park Community Hall. You will have the chance to meet members and hear about all aspects of our work – and of our exciting plans for the future. There will be Middle Eastern food and other entertainment. Please put that date into your diary. You would be welcome to join us. Please contact nigelgann@lichfield.cityofsanctuary.org

Nigel Gann, Secretary, Lichfield District City of Sanctuary


Page last updated: 9th May 2022 2:41 PM