The Yorkshire and Humberside Gathering took place on Saturday 15 February 2020 at Leeds University – it as a brilliant day of sharing and learning between CoS groups and partner organisations working to promote sanctuary and welcome in the region.
Despite the wild and blustery weather provided by Storm Dennis, some 80+ persons from across the CoS regional network came together. The aims of the meeting were to: a) provide news and updates from National CoS to regional network; b) share inspiration and best practice from across the region; and, c) create better links between regional CoS groups.
The day began with Bradford CoS Coordinator Mike Auger introducing an interactive activity which asked all the attendees to reflect on “What does home mean?” to them. Over the course of the day, attendees shared personal ideas of what home means on small slips of paper which were strung along the back of the room.
In the morning, CoS UK Chief Officer Sîan Summers-Rees presented an overview of what the national CoS team have been working on over the last year, highlighting developments in streams such as Universities, Schools and changes at the staff team. She described changes in our governance structure and plans for the upcoming annual meeting in Bradford. Ben Margolis, outgoing CoS Regional Coordinator & National Streams lead introduced the on-going consultation about the proposal to create a network of Local Authorities supportive of sanctuary initiatives which is explained in greater depth here. This was followed by a short presentation of a thank you present to Ben for all his outstanding work in his time at City of Sanctuary UK.
There were two sessions of workshops (one in the morning & one in the afternoon) for attendees to learn about and discuss specific topics in depth. Themes of the sessions included:
- Campaigning for reform with Sîan Summers-Rees
- Health & Maternity streams with Rose McCarthy
- Schools/Colleges of Sanctuary streams with Sara Trewhitt
- Working with Local Authorities with Ben Margolis
- Going for charitable status & group governance discussion with Jayne Mercer & Dick Davies
- Learning to Effectively Fundraise with Data & Evidence with Vicky Ledwidge of Migration Yorkshire
- Working with Cultural and Community Organisations to support sanctuary with Mike Auger of CoS Bradford and Stephanie Shaw from Kirklees Library Services
- Campaigning priorities post 2019 Election with Sara Trewhitt
- Working with people seeking asylum and refugees and not FOR them – hearing from Experts by Experience with Rose McCarthy
In the pre-lunch “From the Floor” section, CoS groups shared information and updates. Reed Partnership explained their role in supporting sanctuary seekers, Migration Yorkshire talked about its programme to identify foster carers for unaccompanied asylum seekers and provided an updated on the contingency accommodation situation in the region. Rose McCarthy of Leeds CoS introduced the wonderful photo exhibit of female sanctuary seekers which was showcased in the room, while Gill Martin reminded attendees about the fantastic mental health resource pack. Keighley Place of Sanctuary gave an overview of their work and Ripon CoS shared information about how to ensure GDPR compliance as a group.
After a lovely vegetarian lunch, Reverend Chris Howson, Chaplain at Sunderland University ran an interactive session “Hope in the Dark” in which he shared his sustaining principles of solidarity, mutual aid, dancing & playing. All the attendees then had short discussions answering the following questions:
- Solidarity: Who do you need to reach out a hand of friendship to?
- Mutual Aid: What can you share? What do you need?
- Dance & Play: What makes you happy? What makes you “you”?
An experts by experience panel then shared their perspectives on what issues they feel need greater attention in working to support people on and after the asylum journey. Two recent attendees at the Sanctuary in Politics Course described how that experience has influenced their efforts to support change. Additionally two Young Voices ambassadors from a Red Cross project powerfully explained why it is so important for their experiences to be heard and included in efforts to make change.
As the day came to a close, Craig Barnett Co-Chair of CoS Sheffield and one of the CoS Network Founders, offered some reflections on the day and shared a commitment to ensuring the voice and participation of sanctuary seekers remains at the heart of our events and work.
Attendees of the gathering were sent off on a song, as Leeds CoS volunteer Emily Wood provided an amazing impromptu performance.
All of us at the CoS team in attendance were deeply grateful for everyone who attended and so generously shared of their experience and knowledge on the day.
If you would like to get involved in planning next year’s gathering, please get in touch with [email protected]