“In our thoughts always – Vanessa, champion volunteer, passed away spring 2011 and Fran Jenkin, Chair and founder member of RSD, passed away summer 2010″
An introduction to the Refugee Support Devon
In 2001, the Refugee Support Devon (RSD, formerly Refugee Support Group Devon) was formed under the watchful gaze of the Devon and Exeter Racial Equality Council (DEREC) in response to the people seeking asylum in Britain due to conflict in their own country. In May 2002, the RSD became an independent charity. RSD is governed by a management committee which is an elected group of local people, asylum seekers and refugees who volunteer their time and energy.
Initially asylum seekers were arriving in Exeter under the governments National Asylum Support Services (NASS) and supported by Devon County Council. However, due to lower numbers of asylum seekers being supported in this way and the termination of the local authorities contract with NASS, RSD now assists asylum seekers who are supported by friends and relatives, or by themselves, and growing numbers of refugees who have settled in Exeter or who migrate here from other cities. This includes working with women and children who have come here to settle with their refugee husbands. Many of those we work with are from Afghanistan and Iran, but as conflicts and political situations have changed, so too have the nationalities of asylum seekers and refugees in Exeter and Devon. We hope that soon we will be able to extend our services to greater numbers arriving in the area.
The RSD’s main aims are to:
- Promote the well being of all asylum seekers and refugees in Devon and to assist them in making informed choices about adapting to life in the UK.
- Encourage the positive participation of the wider community in the lives of resident asylum seekers and refugees, and to raise awareness of the general public about the misinformation and prejudice surrounding asylum seekers and refugees.
- Provide a voice for this community and make representations on their behalf on issues such as: the voucher system, UK immigration policy and UK dispersal policy.
Our main areas of work are:
Information and inquiry service, advocacy, English classes, leisure and sporting activities, women outreach project. RSD is able to offer much more practical support to individuals by working closely with other organisations and supporting people to access services vital to their queries. RSD is also able to offer more personal assistance through one-to-one support and financial help for those experiencing hardship, through its emergency fund.
Annette Hughes – Manager.
Michael Grace – Devon Outreach Coordinator. Michael’s role includes coordinating the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme in Devon and linking with community groups throughout the county.
Neli Montes de Oca – Casework Coordinator. Neli oversees the Exeter Drop-in Service and coordinates volunteers providing ongoing outreach to clients.
Julia M Crockett – Education and Employability Coordinator. Julia coordinates ESOL and other education projects and is developing services to help people move towards employment.
Trupti Desai – Administrative assistant.
These roles are supported by approximately 80 dedicated and skilled volunteers, including a team of Trustees who govern the organisation.