On 17th October, around 50 people came together at Kings Court Business centre in Blackburn for the second gathering of the City of Sanctuary movement in the North West . 5 cities were represented including colleges, schools, theatres and refugee charities – all with a shared commitment to creating a place of welcome for people seeking sanctuary.                                                                                                                                                                          The afternoon started with a warm welcome from Jeff Morgan, a trustee for City of Sanctuary UK based in the North West. He highlighted some of the key principles and values of the network. This was followed by an introduction from Viv Caparros and Jeff about Raise your Voice course which will be piloted at Preston College and it will be open to their internal students. The Raise your Voice, also known as Sanctuary in Politics course, has been running successfully in Ireland since early 2017. This unique course will train students in understanding and engaging with the UK political system, working with the media and public speaking skills for awareness raising.
Jo McLeish from the Theatre in the Quarter, Chester gave a presentation of a wonderful and innovative project called ‘Walk my Journey’. They have been working with 6 young sanctuary seekers and over 700 schools in Chester and surroundings using  film and music to depict the stories and experiences of young sanctuary seekers.
               
Julia Savage gave a presentation on campaigns that are happening nation-wide and encouraging all groups to support the important Lift the Ban campaign.
               
Sarah Wilson from Penrith gave an overview of the project they are running inviting refugees to come to Penrith to stay and work.
               
Nawal Careem gave a brief presentation on how to make best use of group websites.
               

Vivien Caparros, Head of School, Skills Development, ESOL & Community Learning at Preston College receiving the award

The highlights of the evening were when Preston College was presented with a College of Sanctuary award and Jeff cutting a little birthday cake. He said that this was his best birthday ever.
               
We had a good networking session over a tasty veggie Asian buffet prepared by members of Blackburn City of Sanctuary. This was followed by a very heart-warming sharing by representatives including people seeking sanctuary from Burnley, Manchester, Blackburn & Darwen, Penrith and Chester about brilliant initiatives and sustained outcomes alongside the honest description of challenges and how these have been faced. The role of sanctuary seekers was evident in the year’s achievements. As a result of this a friendly “family” atmosphere was created, valuable encouragement & wisdom were offered to new groups attending for the first time by those which are more established and experienced.
               
Jeff summed up describing some of the outstanding recent achievements of North West groups that had been unable to send representatives to this particular gathering. He outlined examples of best practice that have been developed in Liverpool, Lancaster & Morecambe, Wirral, Bury, Bolton and Kendal.
               
A huge thank you Aftab Mughal for co-ordinating and organising the event.
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