Refugee Support Devon Family Celebration Welcomes All
During Saturday 11th August 2018, families supported by Refugee Support Devon (RSD) attended a summer celebration in Belmont Park, Exeter. Held between 12pm-5pm, the afternoon began with a wonderful selection of music. Firstly, we heard a brilliant solo cello performance from the talented Alina Reim, followed by music and singing from Ami Lee, a DDE (Devon Development Education) Culture Champion.
Soon after, Jenny Longford, our chair on the Board of Trustees, provided a welcoming speech for all attendees, introducing the day’s events, explaining a little about RSD’s mission and summarising some of this year’s achievements. Following Jenny’s introduction, we heard two inspiring speeches from our RSD clients, Yossef Taljebini and Jamila Al Matar, on their experiences as refugees and the struggles they overcame arriving in the UK. Jamila’s speech is reproduced below, with her permission:
“In my name and of the Syrian families I thank you for your generous attendance. Excuse me, I do not speak English very well but try as much as possible to talk to you. It was our trip from Turkey to the UK and we were at Bristol Airport both Annette and Michael. There were many people welcoming us. I did not understand anything and I could not answer them. I had the luck in a person name Cecilia Middleton in the boy’s school. She knew that we were strangers to the country. She helped me to find work for me and my husband. She helped us making new friends, like Andy and his wife Jane, Marie and Jane, and there are more friends. Thank you for the meeting today, and the office of all refugees.
Jamila Al Matar”
Following Yossef and Jamila’s inspiring talks, attendees were honoured to receive a speech from the Lord Mayor of Exeter, Rob Hannaford. In his speech, the Lord Mayor stated his strong support for multiculturalism and his belief that people of different faiths may come together to be a part of the Exeter community as one. He strongly stated that discrimination against someone on the basis of their faith or race had no place in the Exeter community, and that he continues to strive to make Exeter a welcoming city for all refugees and asylum seekers. We are incredibly appreciative of the Lord Mayor’s attendance to our event, and hope to see him again at our events in the future.
Following the Lord Mayor’s attendance speech, it was time to get active with some Bollywood dancing led by Aftar. Soon after, Tameem, one of our resettlement coordinators, led a very exciting game of tug of war!
Later in the afternoon, families enjoyed a Middle Eastern dinner which included a wide selection of traditional foods from across the countries. Families sat and shared their food, talking and enjoying the celebratory environment. The afternoon was rounded off with a very special Spanish musical performance by Eduardo on the guitar.
Thank you to all our families who took the time to attend our community event, and to make the afternoon a memorable and special time. A special thank you goes out to all our staff, volunteers and trustees who pitched in to help set up, serve food, provide child care, and clean up. Without your support events like these would not be possible.
We look forward to hosting another family celebration day in the near future.
Lia Clarke (RSD intern), 23 August 2018
I’ve been volunteering for Refugee Support Devon at the Tuesday afternoon drop-in since September 2017, when I finished paid employment.
From the beginning all the staff have been welcoming and kind. I have been encouraged to become involved from day 1 in problem solving for the visitors to the office, which includes refugees, asylum seekers, and those who have been given the “right to remain”. I have made new friends with the ladies I work with and have gained confidence in helping with things I have had no prior knowledge about, every week brings new challenges! I have put to good use my admin and problem solving skills which I am very happy about (nothing is ever wasted!).
I have become involved with the women’s group, who are very welcoming and our times together are such fun, despite my not speaking Arabic! I have also been involved in taking Syrian refugees to appointments around the city, a great way of connecting on a one-to-one basis.
I am learning a tremendous amount about the plight of refugees & asylum seekers coming to the UK and I have tremendous admiration and respect for the work and employees of Refugee Support Devon.
I would recommend becoming a volunteer with Refugee Support Devon – there are so many areas available to becoming involved with, and skills will be put to very good use.
I saw a post recently which summed up my feelings: “Volunesia – That moment when you forget you’re volunteering to help change lives, because it’s changing yours!”
Sue Hurrell (RSD Volunteer), August 2018
Khaled Wakkaa has been volunteering with many community groups and charities since he arrived in Exeter in 2017. Here, in Khaled’s own words – in both Arabic and English – is his story:
بعد ماتعرضت من جميع اساليب الاضطهاد في سورية في ظل الحرب وبعد ذلك في لبنان بدأت رحلة العذاب بحثا عن لقمة العيش وبعد سنوات قامت منظمات الانسانية والمشروع الدولي لاعادة التوطين (ايراب) المحاميين الذين عملوا على مساعدتي في السفر الى بريطانية حيث استقبلني مكتب مساعدة اللاجئين في ديفون والذي احتضني وعائلتي وقدم يد المساعدة لشق طريقي من جديد حيث بدات بالاندماج في المجتمع الذي اعيش في وسطه واشارك في الاجتماعات التي تقام لصالح المجتمع وانضم الى مجموعة تنشيط المجتمع وتعطي حركة حرة ومجانية في حدائق سانت تومس فري موفمنت حيث اقابل الناس واستمتع بالقيام في التمارين الرياضية ومن ثم اعمل كمتطوع في الحضانة مع الاطفال واعمل متطوع في تقديم الطعام المجاني والقهوه والشاي في شوارع سانت تومس وفي المستقبل القريب اعمل على الانضمام ايضا كمتطوع الى مركز الشرطة في مدينة اكستر ولدي طموح كبير في تطوير نفسي وتقديم كل الافكار والنشاطات التي تحسن من قيام مجتمع متطور ونشيط واتعلم الانكليزية في اكستر كوللج بالاضافة الى المحادثة التي اكسبها عندما اتكلم مع الناس واشارك في احتفاليات ومهرجانات كثيرة في المدينة وضواحية وحيث اعيش هناك الناس الذين يبتسمو في وجهي كل صباح ولم اشعر بانني غريب بينهم على العكس تماما اعطوني دافع ان اشارك اكثر وانخرط واندمج في المجتمع الذي يعاملني دائما بالانسانية واصبح لي الكثير من الاصدقاء من مختلف الجنسيات احب ان اكون صداقات وان اساعد الناس وان اشارك في كل شي وفي كل مكان في مجتمع اعطاني محبة وجعلني احب الناس اكثر واود ان اقدم نصيحة لكل اللاجئين حول العالم ليس فقط في انكلترا ان لا يجلسو في البيوت ويشعرو دائما بالاكتئاب والقلق وهذا سوف يزول عندما يكون الانسان علاقات طيبة مع الناس الذين يعيشو حوله كما فعلت انا تماما …اشكر في المرتبة الاولى مكتب ديفون لمساعدة اللاجئين واشكر المشروع الدولي لمساعدة اللاجئين ايرب الذي قدم لي يد العون للوصول من لبنان الى انكلترا مع عائلتي..ثم اشكر المملكة المتحدة التي كانت هي الحاضنه الاكبر لي ولعائلتي
After being subjected to all the forms of repression and persecution in Syria, during and after the war, I fled, with my family, to Lebanon only to endured further persecution and discrimination. In Lebanon, the journey of suffering began in search for jobs, just to survive.
After five years, humanitarian organizations and the International Resettlement Project (IRAP) and their lawyers helped me to travel to the UK. In the UK my family and I were received by Refugee Support Devon. RSD and its staff and volunteers embraced me and my family and helped me to make my way again and to integrate into the community I live in. I started Joining community groups and attending their events and meetings. I regularly participate in the Free Movement Group activities in St Thomas Park, where I enjoy exercising and meeting people.
I also work as a nursery volunteer with children and work as a volunteer in catering and providing free food, coffee and tea in St Thomas every Sunday. In the near future, I’m aiming to join the local police station in Exeter, as a volunteer. I have a great aspiration to further develop myself and my skills to provide new and creative ideas and activities that encourage communities to develop and be active.
I learn English at Exeter College as well as the conversation that I get when I talk to people and participate in many activities, events and festivals in the city and suburbs and where I live. Here in Exeter, people smile at me every morning in the streets and where I volunteer. I do not and feel I’m a stranger, on the contrary, they gave me the motivation to participate more and get involved. I have many friends from different nationalities, and I would like to make more. I love helping people, participating in everything and everywhere in society that gave me love and made me love people more.
I would like to offer advice to all refugees around the world, not only in England: Do not sit at home and always feel depressed and anxious. Your depression and anxiety will go away when you make the effort to go out, meet people and form positive and healthy relations with people around you, just like what I did. I thank the Refugee Support Devon for supporting and encouraging me, and I thank the International Refugee Aid Project which gave me a helping hand to get from Lebanon to England with my family. I also thank the UK for providing the greatest refuge for me and my family.
Khaled Wakkaa, June 2018