An introduction to the Refugee Support Devon
In 2001, the Refugee Support Devon (RSD, formerly Refugee Support Group Devon) was formed in response to needs presented by asylum seekers who were living in Exeter. In May 2002, the RSD became an independent charity 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 government’s 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 ending of the local authorities’ contract with NASS in 2005, RSD now assists asylum seekers from a much wider range of backgrounds and needs. We help 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. We also help women and their children who have come here to settle with their refugee husbands. As conflicts and political situations have changed, so too have the nationalities of asylum seekers and refugees in Exeter and Devon and so too have the circumstances in which people arrive here. Since 2016 RSD has also been providing welcome support to refugee families from Syria who have been resettled in Devon through the national government schemes.
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 support service – one-off help through our drop-in service or long term support including advocacy and outreach services,
Outreach support to refugees and asylum seekers living throughout Devon (excluding Plymouth) – includes our role in providing services under the government’s Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Schemes.
English help – conversation classes and 1-1 tutoring,
Community garden through the spring, summer and autumn.
Women’s network group – monthly activities for women and their children
In cases where people are in severe financial crisis RSD may be able to help apply for funds and additional help such as referrals to foodbanks. When our own funding permits RSD is able to help with small financial aid from our Emergency Fund.
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.
Annette Hughes – Manager. Part time 4 days Mon – Wed & Fri
Neli Montes de Oca – Casework Coordinator. Neli oversees the Exeter Drop-in Service and coordinates volunteers providing ongoing outreach to clients. Part time 3 days Tues – Thurs
Tameem Shaaban – Resettlement Coordinator- providing welcome and support services to families resettled in Devon through government schemes, predominantly refugees from Syria. Tameem is based in our ‘hub’ office at Teignbridge CVS in Newton Abbot. Full Time Mon – Fri
Sahar AlNaas and Souad Fadel – Resettlement Coordinators- as above, but based in our Exeter office. Full Time Mon – Fri
Denise Parker - Education and Employability Coordinator. Denise coordinates ESOL and other education projects and is developing services to help people move towards employment. Part time flexible
Trupti Desai – Administrator. Part time Mon – Wed
Nick Floyd – Administrative assistant. Part time Wed – Fri
These roles are supported by approximately 80 dedicated and skilled volunteers, including a team of Trustees who govern the organisation.
“In our thoughts always – Vanessa, champion volunteer, passed away spring 2011 and Fran Jenkin, Chair and founder member of RSD, passed away summer 2010″