A group set up to welcome a family fleeing war and conflict to a new life in the Western Isles has reached a significant milestone in their early planning.
Communities for Refugees Western Isles received the latest of many generous donations on Saturday (22 January), taking them up to 100% of their initial fundraising target.
The £9,000 raised to date is the minimum fund required to apply to the Home Office for in principle permission to welcome a refugee family under the UK Government’s Community Sponsorship scheme.
One of two refugee resettlement schemes now running, the scheme works by allowing a community, together with a local authority, to facilitate resettlement of a single refugee family, allowing for people to be welcomed over and above the quota set by the UK Government.
It runs alongside the UK Resettlement Scheme (UKRS), which is operated through local government and was the scheme under which Comhairle nan Eilean Siar successfully supported eight Syrian families to make new lives in the Western Isles.
Planning group chair Mhairi Murdoch said: “Our first target was for £9,000, without which we would not even be able to apply to host a new family in the islands.
“We know from our conversations with other groups around the UK that this is the very least we are going to need to meet the expenses of our future new residents, so we intend to keep going with fundraising and our page at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/communities-for-refugees-western-isles remains open for donations.”
But Mhairi and the rest of an energetic planning group of 20 people also now have a new challenge to face – finding a committed volunteer for a key role in the group, without which the application itself can’t progress.
Mhairi said: “Firstly, and most importantly, we want to thank everyone who donated so generously to our fund, and all of the people who have stepped forward to offer their time as volunteers.
“We have identified a finance team, safeguarding and health lead volunteers and people willing to take on issues around accommodation, education, benefits and family finance, but we still need an individual willing to take the crucial role of co-ordinating family support volunteers.
“We make no bones about the fact that this will be a demanding role – it will need someone with administrative skills and time to ensure that, whatever support our new family needs, a volunteer can be made available to help them.
“That could mean people to attend a doctor’s appointment, to go shopping and help negotiate the supermarket shelves, or to find the right location for a language lesson.
“Our new family will be heavily reliant on volunteers to find their way around a whole new community, especially at first, and the family support lead will be the person (or pair) who creates a timetable for volunteers, making sure someone is always there when needed.”
Communities for Refugees Western Isles is already well-supported by volunteers, but this particular role is not only pivotal to the successful management of a team, but also one which the Home Office wants to see evidenced.
Mhairi said: “Our future welcome to a family fleeing war or conflict somewhere in the world needs specific key, named roles on the organising group. Without these the Home Office will not give us agreement to proceed.
“We really urge people with skills and time to think about volunteering with us. You’ll be helping our project progress and, as a result, you’ll be making sure another family can get away from a traumatic and dangerous situation to a new, secure life in our island community.”
The picture shows some of the volunteers who have already stepped forward to welcome a new family to the islands (Communities for Refugees Western Isles).