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16 Nov 2023

Exceptional year of RSD support celebrated at AGM

RSD's extraordinary support for asylum seekers in Devon hotels formed the centrepiece for this year's AGM on 1 November, but there were plenty of other achievements to catch the eye.


Some 40 people gathered at the Community Centre, with others on Zoom, to hear RSD Manager Rupert Blomfield praise his colleagues' “tremendous work this year in the most challenging circumstances”. Jury Arevalo on Zoom described being thrown in at the deep end in handling large groups such as the 300 women and children sent to an isolated hotel near the airport. “Working for RSD was a real adventure,” she said.


Proof of success came when 75% of the men housed at an Exeter hotel gained their status as refugees. “We really rose to the challenge,” commented RSD trustee Ruth Grove-White.
Souad Fadel pointed out how essential it was to help hotel residents keep active and make use of their skills. RSD's ground-breaking work in seeking hard-to-find legal aid was singled out for praise.


It was not only RSD staff and supporters who voiced their approval at the meeting. Hamida, a qualified vet in Afghanistan, described her arrival two years ago as “a real culture shock for me.” Now she has polished her English to a level where she can pursue her studies to be able to resume her vocation here – as well as giving huge ongoing support to RSD along the way.
Hamida reminded the AGM that, unlike her, many women arriving in the UK had never been to school, could not read or write in Farsi never mind English, and were not allowed to go outside alone in Afghanistan. “Now they can go out by themselves and have confidence, because of your help.”


Tahmina joked that “every refugee coming to the UK should get RSD support – I wish!”.
“Grazie a tutti (thanks to you all),” said a broadly-smiling Ibrahim on behalf of his wife Fatoumata and children, who were at the AGM.


Other highlights of RSD's work mentioned at the meeting were: the vital support given by Denise Parker (Anne Conway is now sharing her job) to refugee health professionals; English lessons organised by Jen Schoen; drop-in centre run by Kiven Emmanuel and Valentina Todino; and the resettlement scheme and support to hotel residents provided by Souad Fadel and Ella Marsh. It was also pointed out that RSD simply could not do what it does without the crucial role played by the 80 plus volunteers who are involved in every aspect of RSD’s work. They bring a wide range of skills and experience to the work place. Stephen Matthewman of Devon County Council paid tribute to RSD's continuing work on the Syrian Resettlement Scheme.


RSD trustee and secretary David Mezzetti noted that as well as reacting nimbly to the fast-moving events, RSD is also in the process of developing its strategic objectives for the next three years, helped by a Lloyds Bank Foundation consultant.


More details of RSD's demanding year are included in the splendidly revamped Annual Review for 2022-23.


Jenny Longford, lauded by David as “the most thoughtful and active Chair this organisation needs,” paid tribute to RSD trustee Kev Hunter, who had passed away in May, and former trustee Peter Bainbridge, who passed away in October.

Minutes from the AGM are available here.

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