Child refugee film shares bill with AGM

Jan 2018 poster[3]

An acclaimed film about the unaccompanied child refugees left stranded by the closure of the Calais Jungle will be shown at Sanctuary in Chichester’s first ever AGM.

Calais Children: a Case to Answer by award-winning director Sue Clayton follows the young people, many of whom had a legal right to come to the UK, over the year since their forced eviction.

The film will be shown after our AGM, which starts at 7.30pm on 7 March 2018 at St Paul’s Church, Churchside, Chichester, PO19 6FT. The hour-long film is likely to start at around 8.05pm.

Everyone is welcome to both the AGM and the film. Admission is free, although there will be a voluntary collection. Refreshments will be served.

Roger in Pask, Sanctuary in Chichester chair, said: “The meeting will mainly be a celebration of a year of amazing achievements by a large number of our volunteers – so please note the date in your diary and be sure to join us.”

Great start for our fundraising appeal

Our fundraising appeal has got off to a terrific start, with people giving a total of £4,000 (10% of our £40,000 target) in just two months. A big thank you to everyone who has donated!

The money has been raised through one-off donations, new regular giving standing orders and sales from Christmas cards. This successful launch has given us great confidence that we’ll reach our goal of £40,000, and so be able to sustain and expand our support for refugees and asylum seekers in West Sussex.

We’ve got a pipeline of future events and activities lined up to support our appeal.

On March 23, at 7.30pm, we’re hosting a performance of The Bundle at Chichester’s St Paul’s Church. This powerful drama follows one woman’s fight to gain asylum in the UK, and has been toured nationwide by the Journeymen Theatre Company. Find out more here and ticket information.

We would like to thank everyone who has contributed to our appeal so far.
Find out more about how to donate and what you are helping to do.

Play reveals UK asylum maze

On 23 March 2018, Sanctuary in Chichester is bringing a powerful drama about the challenges of achieving asylum in the UK to West Sussex.

Bundle

The Bundle is based on the real-life story of Adilah, a lawyer, and her three young children who flee from their abusive home in Chechnya to find safety in Britain. The play follows Adilah as she confronts the Kafkaesque twists and turns of the UK asylum system, giving insights into the inner workings of the Home Office on the way.

“This simple play exposes the complex reasons why people seek asylum – why they want to come to Britain and the minefields they encounter once they get here,” says Roger Pask, Sanctuary in Chichester’s chair.

“It does this in a compelling and moving way, that invites us to draw upon our strengths as human beings to identify with the plight of refugees – and to recognise that each refugee is our neighbour.”

The Bundle is performed – and was researched and written – by the Journeymen Theatre company. Since being commissioned by the Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network, the play has toured across the UK.

The Bundle will be staged at 7.30pm on 23 March at St Paul’s Church, Churchside, Chichester, PO19 6FT. It runs for around 65 minutes and will be followed by a discussion.

Tickets are £5 or £2 for students. They can be ordered in advance from sanctuaryinchichester@gmail.com (payment and collection on the door), or on the door from 7pm on 23 March. They can also be bought from St Olav Christian Bookshop, 81A North Street, Chichester PO19 1LQ, by cash or a cheque payable to Sanctuary in Chichester.

Proceeds will go to Sanctuary in Chichester and to other UK refugee support groups.

A visit to Sanctuary in Parliament

Tuesday 28th November was the day of the annual Sanctuary in Parliament event, organised by City of Sanctuary. The event, which used the hashtag #DignityNotDestitution, focused on the negative effects the UK asylum process has on the lives of those who seek sanctuary in our country – forcing people into poverty and homelessness, and threatening the mental health of those who need the most support.

I attended the event with a young refugee who has been a huge part of the Sanctuary in Chichester community for many months now. After an introduction from the Chair, Sabir Zazai, we listened to testimonies from refugees and asylum seekers explaining the consequences of three main issues in the asylum process: not being allowed to work, inadequate financial support and a short transition period when granted asylum.

Asylum seekers in the UK are currently only allowed to work after 12 months in the country – but then they can only choose from an extremely restrictive list of very specialist professions. This leads to forced inactivity for those awaiting a decision on their case, which can take years. As well as not being able to work, asylum seekers receive just £5 per day – hardly enough to meet the needs of a dignified life. When asylum seekers receive leave to remain, they are given less than one month to find new accommodation and financial support, which can lead to homelessness and destitution. Hearing personal stories detailing the effects of such policies was extremely powerful and brought home how desperately the system is in need of reform.

In response, City of Sanctuary proposes new policies: firstly, that asylum seekers should be allowed to work after 6 months and should have access to jobs outside of the restrictive list; secondly, that asylum seekers should receive 70% of mainstream income support instead of the current level of 50%; and finally, that the transition period should increase from 28 days to 50 days, giving new refugees enough time to find new support.

The exploration of these issues was followed by poetry read by schoolchildren, and refugees and asylum seekers. The event ended with the wonderful Sussex Syrian Community children’s choir, whose beautiful singing was the perfect melodic, hopeful note to end on.

For more details on the issues above and City of Sanctuary’s proposals, please click here.

Tazmin Mirza at Sanctuary in Chichester

A fundraising campaign to expand our work in West Sussex

IMG_8692Sanctuary in Chichester has launched an ambitious fundraising campaign to help grow our work in West Sussex.

Our volunteers aim to raise £40,000 in the next two years to expand our work to offer support for refugees and asylum seekers.

The money will help:

  • Create more drop-in facilities, to add to the two weekly sessions we already offer
  • Help more Syrian refugee families arrive and settle in West Sussex, along with the three families who are already here
  • Extend our language learning service
  • Offer more friendship-building and mentoring opportunities, potentially using sport as a focus
  • Provide shelter to destitute asylum-seekers, sometimes at short notice
  • Increase awareness of, and access to, our services
  • Boost understanding among local residents of the issues that refugees and asylum seekers face.

    Donate here.

Sanctuary in Chichester will be holding a range of events to support the campaign, with plans including a local presentation of The Bundle, a powerful drama about the challenges asylum seekers face in the UK.

Roger Pask, our Chairman, says that donors are the life blood of the work that we do. “The sense of welcome and belonging that has grown for our Syrian families and young asylum-seekers in all of our work this year has become palpable.

“I am really proud of the efforts of everyone in our network and of Sanctuary in Chichester as a team. Everyone who donates and everyone who is involved in our many activities makes this welcome and sense of belonging possible.”

The fundraising campaign kicks off on ‘Giving Tuesday’ (November 28, 2017), a day when – following the conspicuous consumption of Black Friday – people are encouraged to give to good causes. Our supporters have always been incredibly generous and we hope they’ll back us again – either by fundraising on our behalf or offering a donation. Regular giving by standing order is particularly valuable, as it gives us the security to plan ahead.

Read our fundraising leaflet here.

Find out how to donate here.

We’ll be giving regular updates on coming fundraising events and on progress towards our £40,000 goal on our website and social media.

Discovering West Sussex with young asylum seekers

Over the summer, Sanctuary in Chichester has enjoyed some brilliant days out with the young asylum seekers we support. Here’s what we’ve been up to during the past couple of months…

Rain didn’t stop play

At the end of July we had a wonderful afternoon at West Wittering beach. We enjoyed a picnic on the sand before a game of French cricket and some water fights! In typical British style it wasn’t the sunniest of days, but rain and wind just added to the fun.

In August we decided to pay a visit to Arundel, as the youngsters had seen the Norman keep from the train. After a wander round the town, we walked through the castle gates straight into medieval England. We first learnt about the keep, the oldest part of the castle, before exploring the grand interiors and gardens. Of course we made sure to visit the beautiful Cathedral before heading back. All in all a fantastic day out with lots of learning and new discoveries!

Nature walks

Many of the young asylum seekers are keen walkers, so on a sunny Friday we put on our walking boots and made our way from Chichester to Lavant. Luckily the weather was kind to us throughout the afternoon, and we had a great time exploring the local area and learning the names of different plants and birds.

Our next trip was to the Weald and Downland Living Museum in Singleton – and we were lucky enough to be given free tickets, courtesy of the Museum’s CEO, Martin Purslow. It was fascinating to find out about old buildings from the local area as well as trades and handicrafts. The youngsters especially enjoyed the fire-making demonstration and feeding the ducks by the lake.

Festival fun

The August Bank Holiday was the grand finale of our summer trips – and what a great way to finish with the hottest late-August Bank Holiday on record! We took the bus to Midhurst to spend the day at the MADhurst festival, and enjoyed great music, food and market stalls. We even tried our hand at some juggling and plate spinning and may well have some future experts in our group!

The summer trips were a great success, and allowed the youngsters to discover their local surroundings while learning more about English history and culture and practising the language. We’re so glad to have been able to take them on such valuable days out, and would like to thank all our donors for making events like this possible.

We hope you’ve had a great summer too, and we’ll be in touch soon for another update.

Tazmin Mirza at Sanctuary in Chichester

Supported lodgings: a member’s perspective

mary_sanctuary_volunteer1

In  May this year, my husband, Martin, and I agreed to the idea of having one of the Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC) live with us. We have a spare room and we are in reasonable distance of Chichester College but above all there was a person in need of a home.

In June we started the process based on that for foster carers, and a social worker came to visit us once a week or fortnight for about two months. We built up a good rapport with our social worker who sat alongside us at the ‘Panel Interview’. The Panel Chair explained the procedure and introduced us to each of the five members of the Panel. It had felt daunting beforehand, but the reality was much easier.

The Panel unanimously approved us and five days later on 11 September, our student, let’s call him John, started living with us. I knew him as he had lived at The Foyer for over a year and Sanctuary in Chichester had been in contact with him during that time. John is appreciating living in a home with a cat and garden.

He has settled remarkably quickly and made himself at home helping with household chores, including cooking. His English is good and fast improving with our support; and his enthusiasm makes him an excellent student. We hope he will continue to thrive with us.

Hopefully, Martin and I are forerunners for many other local people to assist asylum seekers in this way. We are getting paid, and both our social worker and John’s social worker keep in regular contact during this settling in period.

Mary Downy

Vision for Sanctuary in Chichester

On a dark and rainy night in February, over 40 people turned up at the Foyer in Chichester to talk about their vision for the organisation. We divided up into small groups and explored what we would like to achieve, what we can do and offer and what our values are. We took part in participatory exercises and found out that:

SiC is a group of like-minded local people committed to making Chichester a welcoming place for refugees and asylum seekers. We do this by using our diverse skills, energy and enthusiasm to:

  • increase knowledge and tolerance of issues relating to refugees and asylum seekers
  • understand and meet the needs of refugees and asylum seekers (locally/ both locally and further afield)

We have strong values of inclusivity, collaboration and transparency.

Here is our Vision Statement that emerged as a result of the meeting: SiC Vision March 2017

Here is some of our artwork, which was part of the process of exploring who we are.

An organised visit for young asylum-seekers in Chichester

On Friday 16th December, Sanctuary in Chichester led a group of asylum-seeking young people from Iran, Syria, Eritrea and China to the Novium Museum in Chichester.

The Tim Peake Exhibition had just opened, and so the teenagers were able to see the exhibits and memorabilia of his trip into space and engage with the interactive displays.

We also saw other galleries which made an impression on them – the Roman Empire extended to some of their countries too ! The age of the current Chichester buildings also intrigued them, and of course, the historic costumes in the naval gallery proved a great hit.

This trip was important because it helped the young people further understand our culture, it provided proof of some shared history, and gave the group an opportunity to interact with each other in English. It was also a concrete demonstration that the people of Chichester are there for them.