We’re a registered charity

Great news: Sanctuary in Chichester is now a charity! We were awarded charitable status in early February, eight months after we applied to the Charity Commission. Our registration number is 1181855.

This marks a new stage in our work to welcome refugees and asylum-seekers in our area. Among other things it means that any donations from supporters who pay income tax at the standard rate will be enhanced by HMRC by 25%. One of our trustees will be contacting all our donors to check the tax status of their gifts, in order to reclaim this Gift Aid.

We’d like to thank everyone for their support in helping Sanctuary in Chichester to get to this point. It’s been quite a haul.

Roger Pask



Sanctuary in Chichester Christmas cards

Looking to support a good cause with your cards this Christmas? Look no further! Sanctuary in Chichester is this year offering gorgeous cards featuring a Sussex rose in frost and a snowy South Downs scene (pictured).

The cards are 15cm x 10.5cm and feature the greeting: ‘Wishing you a very happy Christmas and a peaceful new year’.

To order cards please email our head of fundraising Rebecca Zeman at rebecca.dowman@cantab.net, indicating how many cards you would like and which design.

The suggested donation is £5 for a pack of 10. Posted packs will cost an extra £1.75 to cover p&p.

Appropriate Adult

We are all appalled by what we see in the Press and on our screens about migrants and their journeys particularly when they are unaccompanied children. Hearing about these journeys and the reasons for them leaving their own country first hand is an extraordinary experience.

When a young person arrives in this country if there is any doubt about their age they must be treated as a child. People are always keen to mention those they have read about who are actually proved to be over eighteen but the reality is that sometimes it is the other way round.

An Age Assessment is required if UASCs have arrived with no identification documents to prove their age. In West Sussex the Home Office relies on Social Workers from the Gatwick Duty Team to interview them to establish how old they are as well as acquiring any additional information that may be needed.

An Appropriate Adult is an independent person who is there to support the young person, make sure that they understand the reason for the interview,  that they are not caused unnecessary distress by the questioning, have breaks when needed and are made aware that they are entitled to legal advice. It is also the responsibility of the AA to ensure that the Social Workers are acting properly and fairly.

Sometimes we meet for the first time shortly before the interview along with their interpreter. This gives me a chance to explain my role and to try to put them at ease, although inevitably some are anxious. On other occasions I collect them from where they are housed. Some are keen to show how much English they have learnt since their arrival (often from the television) others speak no English but I endeavour to communicate and be friendly. The interpreters of course speak their language and are sometimes from their country which is reassuring for the young person. I have learnt to check whether they have eaten breakfast (sometimes) and whether they have brought any money for lunch (which they rarely have) and so started taking extra fruit or something that might keep them going.

The interview itself follows a set format. Once the Social Workers have introduced themselves and explained the purpose of the interview, then taken photographs, they ask whether there are people or authorities who they should not contact because it might endanger them or their family. One of the first questions is when they were born and how do they know that is the correct date (birthdays aren’t celebrated in many of the countries they are from). Next are enquiries about their family, where they lived, their schooling and whether anybody would have anything that proves their date of birth. While one social worker is asking questions the other is typing the whole interview verbatim. There follow questions about why they chose to leave or why they had to leave, the countries they crossed to reach a port or airport, who transported them, how they travelled and with whom. Inevitably this can rekindle painful memories, as many have survived or witnessed unimaginable atrocities but the Social Workers are always sympathetic and prepared to have a break if it is needed. The journey to Europe has often cost a huge amount for an extremely perilous crossing.

Once in Europe they are held in Asylum Centres where they may well have had some sort of Age Assessment. Every individual’s experience is different, some have spent time in Italy before travelling without tickets on trains up to Calais, others have been in Germany, other towns in France or Belgium.  There are those who have made many attempts to hide in a lorry to cross the Channel and eventually succeeded.

There is an enormous amount of work going on behind the scenes trying to establish the veracity of their accounts. Sometimes the assessment will be halted for a few hours, days or even weeks for information to be sought from the authorities in other countries. The interview might be over in a day or it may take two or three. Sometimes they may want time to pray which involves finding an empty room – not always easy. The interpreters are of course essential even if the young person speaks good English. It is too important to risk any misunderstandings and they are often a great help to the UASCs who don’t know that fighting in the street as they did at home or running away from the police could get them into serious trouble here.

It is often a draining experience especially when I feel unhappy about the final decision but the Social Workers are doing their job and I have to remind myself that they have additional information and that I am there as an AA. In spite of this and hearing heart-breaking and harrowing accounts of their lives, I feel privileged to have met such resilient, determined and charming young people.



Sanctuary in Chichester Christmas cards

Looking to support a good cause with your cards this Christmas? Look no further!

Sanctuary in Chichester is this year offering gorgeous cards featuring a Sussex rose in frost and a snowy South Downs scene (pictured).

The cards are 15cm x 10.5cm and feature the greeting: ‘Wishing you a very happy Christmas and a peaceful new year’.

To order cards please email our head of fundraising Rebecca Zeman at rebecca.dowman@cantab.net, indicating how many cards you would like and which design. The suggested donation is £5 for a pack of 10. Posted packs will cost an extra £1.75 to cover p&p.



Fundraising success!

Two fundraising events have raised a total of £1,300 to support our work with refugees and asylum seekers. Thank you to everyone who donated.

The 13 October Dell Quay dinner and dance raised over £700. Guests enjoyed views over the harbour, a lovely meal and live music. We were particularly grateful for the use of Dell Quay Sailing Club and for generous raffle prizes from Cred Jewellery, Montezuma’s, SwimQuest, the Chichester Festival Theatre and Fontwell Park.

The 7 October Bosham concert raised £600. Harpist Frances Kelly, soprano Rebecca Grove and mezzo-soprano Stephanie Peat played a stunning selection of music and songs to a full audience in Bosham’s Holy Trinity Church.

Sanctuary in Chichester tops award donations

Sanctuary in Chichester’s (SiC’s) support for asylum seekers and refugees has been boosted by a whopping £2,500 from brewer Hall & Woodhouse’s Community Chest awards.


SiC was one of 24 Sussex organisations, whittled down from 208 applications, to receive an award at a 21 September ceremony at Hall & Woodhouse’s Worlds End pub in Patching. The other recipients came from across Sussex and ranged from Long Furlong Riding for the Disabled to Crawley Museum. (Pictured receiving the award is Rebecca Zeman, SiC management committee member, with Gary Shipton, Chichester Observer editor-in-chief, one of the judges.)

SiC received the highest sum given, with other awards ranging from £300 upwards. Award applications were judged on the basis of need, organisations’ own efforts and the difference a contribution could make. In announcing SIC’s award Hall & Woodhouse chairman Mark Woodhouse praised the organisation’s “marvellous work”.

The award brings the amount raised by SiC since we launched our fundraising campaign in November 2017 to £22,600 – more than halfway towards our £40,000 target.

  • Our friendly fundraising committee is looking for new members. Please contact Rebecca on rebecca.dowman@cantab.net if you are interested.

Fundraising event

Sanctuary in Chichester is having a charity party on October 13 at the Dell Quay Sailing Club. It will run from 7pm until late and the £15 tickets will include a delicious home-cooked, two course buffet supper, a bar, music, dancing and beautiful views across the harbour (moonlight permitting!). There will be a grand raffle with prizes ranging from tickets for two to the Fontwell Park races to a place in a guided Arun River swim.

The party has replaced the barn dance that was on the same date. More details will follow but if you would like to come please mail Su Leeming on su.leeming@btinternet.com. Supporters who had bought tickets for the barn dance and would like to attend the party can use the same tickets, but please mail Su to let her know. Anyone with barn dance tickets who would prefer not to attend the party can receive a full refund by contacting sanctuaryinchichester@gmail.com.

My internship with Sanctuary in Chichester

I developed a strong interest in the refugee crisis while living in Berlin during my third year of university, and started to volunteer in the sector. When I graduated I was keen to continue volunteering, so I started searching for local opportunities – and Sanctuary in Chichester appeared straight away.

From my first meeting with Roger and a core group of volunteers, I felt an incredible sense of community, welcome and commitment to the cause. At this meeting I also met several young refugees who greeted me with beaming smiles and chatted to me as if we were lifelong friends.

After several months of volunteering, meeting new people in the community and learning about the organisation’s projects, I began interning with Sanctuary in Chichester as the Development and Communications Co-ordinator. This role spanned the whole range of SiC’s projects. While many tasks were admin and communications related, a large part of the role involved supporting the development of the language work and leading a team of “befrienders” for a newly arrived Syrian family.

Each day was different – you could find me at a drop-in session, updating social media, sending out emails and newsletters to the network, arranging and attending meetings, liaising with WSCC (West Sussex County Council) partners or visiting one of the refugee families. What I loved most was how varied the role was, and working in such a fast-growing organisation, adapting with the needs of SiC and its clients, was a very stimulating experience.

I was supported in my role by Roger Pask and Rebecca Zeman, who were committed from the start to advising and guiding my work, as well as encouraging my own personal development. It was amazing to see such incredible generosity and kindness from the many volunteers I worked with; a genuine desire and commitment to help was palpable in the community. It became clear to me that each individual has something different, yet so valuable to offer to the cause of helping refugees.

For me, the most important thing about my internship was the cause itself; the positive impact I was able to help facilitate in the lives of refugees in and around Chichester. It was incredibly humbling to work with such strong, capable and positive people who have been through unbelievable turmoil in their lives, but are determined to build a new life here.

The huge range of skills I developed during my internship with Sanctuary in Chichester will be invaluable for my future masters course and career. The generous bursary I received from SiC has allowed me to study an MSc in Global Migration at UCL, and my aim is to continue working with and for refugees long-term in the future.

Tazmin Mirza

SiC becomes a registered charity

After nearly three years of responding to the needs of refugees and asylum seekers as they arise, SiC is developing a clearer and more coherent structure to help all supporters find a direct route to opportunities actively to join in our work. Many supporters help through donations – both regular and one-off – but a good number of people who want to work to support refugees find it hard to work out how best to do this.

We expect to receive approval from the Charity Commission in the next 4 weeks for our proposed status as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation. On this link you will find a paper in 2 parts setting out the structure of our work. Part 1 is an executive summary equal to one side of A4. Everyone is encouraged at least to read that part. Many will then want to skip straight to the section(s) they are most interested in by going to the relevant numbered paragraph in the main part of the paper – part 2.

We are keen to engage as many people as we can in our work and there is plenty for everyone to do.

In two weeks time a circular will go out – on the web-site and by email – inviting all supporters to choose an area of work they would like to be part of.

We plan to follow this up with a launch event for SiC as a registered CIO at which we hope to get together as many of our network members as possible.

SiC is looking for an Intern!

Sanctuary in Chichester is looking for an Administration and Communications Intern for a period of 9-12 months. The ideal candidate will share our values and have strong IT and communications skills and the initiative and drive to work independently. They will play a key role in helping us co-ordinate our projects and systems as we prepare to become a registered charity. The intern will experience work in a growing refugee organisation, and they will have the opportunity to develop a huge range of skills working in a very varied and exciting role.

The role is largely home-based, although it will involve attending work-related meetings/events around West Sussex. The successful applicant will report to our Chair, Roger Pask. This will be a full-time voluntary role, with a generous compensation offer which is specified in the job description.

If you would like to see the full job description, please contact sanctuaryinchichester@gmail.com. Alternatively, if you know of anyone outside our network who might be suitable, please encourage them to get in touch.