Forty delegates from 14 cities and towns of sanctuary groups from the South West of England and Wales came together at a City of Sanctuary regional meeting on Thursday 7th September, to learn from each other, be nourished, encouraged, inspired – and warmly hosted by Swindon City of Sanctuary at Los Gatos restaurant, a key supporter of the group.
Refugee delegates reminded the meeting that the sense of being welcomed is essential to well-being, but there is still a long way to go for
asylum seekers to feel respected and safe, to be supported to learn English, to be able to use the skills they bring with them, and not live in fear of detention, destitution or deportation. They also made passionate pleas for collaborative working and campaigning against the unjust asylum system. Heather Jones, a representative of Widden Primary School from Gloucester also shared the school’s journey to be recognised as a School of Sanctuary. Mrs Jones highlighted current activities which promote welcome and safety for all within the school and community, and the school’s aspirations for the future.
Sian Summers-Rees, Chief Officer, City of Sanctuary and Rebecca Scott, Coordinator, Wales Nation of Sanctuary were able brilliantly to set the national context of work being done locally – to enable us all to feel part of an organisation, network and movement that’s growing with unprecedented speed.
The main message of the day was that we can share and build on our own and each other’s strengths – that everyone does things a bit differently according to their own area, that each way is valid and this creativity and energy is a strength of the movement itself. If we are able to organise together we can capture this unique moment in history to secure lasting change for sanctuary seekers.
Participants described the event as a ‘success,’ and below is some of their feedback:
“Thank you for another inspiring and thought-provoking day. Passionate people, fabulous food, questions, suggestions, wisdom and warmth. Thank you!” Lindsay Wright, Abergavenny Town of Sanctuary.
“Thanks again for a great conference… It was so thoughtfully organised and managed to keep a very clear focus on the basis on which the ‘City of Sanctuary’ organisation exists,” Mrs Heather Jones, Representative of Widden Primary School, Gloucester.
“Thank you to everyone who made yesterday happen, it was a great event. I am very happy to steal some of the ideas raised and suggested!” Adele Owen, Director, Gloucestershire Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers.
“Thanks also for an excellent meeting on Thursday, it was great to meet new folk and hear what everyone else is doing as well as sharing our challenges,” Wendy Milne, for the Management Committee, Exeter City of Sanctuary.
Follow up news coverage of the conference by the Swindon Advertiser click here