Like many of us, I have been struggling to know how to respond to the daily news reports about refugees who are desperate to find a place of safety for themselves and their families away from the terror and destruction of their homelands. I have received a number of emails and phone calls from members of the local communities asking what we can do to help, and so we held an open meeting and prayer vigil at St Margaret’s Church, Yatton Keynell on Thursday 24th September to pray and discuss the options that were available to us.
We talked about the importance of a coordinated response linking in with the local authority and also with organisations that will be working both locally and overseas providing much needed care and support for refugees.
In response, we have set up the Bybrook Refugee Crisis Support Network, and invited the wider local communities across Bybrook to be involved if they would like to be. So far, we have had nearly 40 families and individuals sign up, and the responses keep coming.
There were a few immediate things that we wanted to do:
- We wanted to put together a register of skills that people might be willing to offer to refugee families if they are placed locally to us. This might be help with understanding legal documents, finding doctors, helping to look at school applications. We have now done this, and had a good response so far.
- There has been talk of trying to provide some housing in the local area that the local authority could use to accommodate refugees on a long term basis (5 years). We have already had one very generous offer.
- A number of church families have signed up with Home for Good, being willing to offer foster care for unaccompanied minors.
- We were fortunate to have Rachel Molano with us, and she has now been out to the camp at Calais and will bring us up to date reports of needs and prayer requests from the camp.
We have now made contact with Wiltshire Council’s fostering and adoption team, and also the Voluntary and Community Sector team who are helping to lead the Council’s response to the Refugee crisis, and they would like to work with us and the wider churches so that we can provide a positive and meaningful support to those who are expected to arrive in the county in the future.
During the course of the conversations with the Council, it also became apparent that there was a huge need for foster carers in the North Wiltshire area, and that the churches might be able to help to meet this need.
We are planning an evening with representatives of Wiltshire Council to look at both of these pressing issues, and would like to invite you and member of your churches and wider community who may have an interest in responding to the refugee situation, and also who might be interested in general fostering or fostering of unaccompanied refugee minors. This will be on Friday 11th March at 7:30pm at Yatton Keynell Village Hall.
If you would like to attend, or would like further information, please contact me by email email@example.com or telephone 01249 782663
Jonathan Philpott, Priest-in-Charge, Bybrook Benefice
24th February 2016