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02 Nov 2022

RSD 2022 AGM report

Tales of strife and successes marked Refugee Support Devon’s AGM, held at Exeter Community Centre on October 18th.

In her introduction to the meeting, RSD Chair Jenny Longford thanked staff, volunteers and supporters for their efforts during a challenging year. RSD’s Manager Rupert Blomfield told an audience of some 40 people that the organisation had celebrated its 20th year with a range of successes, from expanding its ability to give specialist immigration advice for refugees to the launch of the innovative Refugees as Medical Professionals (RAMP) project. Education and employment services had performed well in spite of Covid restrictions. Volunteers worked with recent arrivals to the UK housed at hotels in Tiverton and Paignton, involving cooperation with many local and national organisations against the background of new immigration regulations, which Rupert described as “almost impossible to meet.”

Graphic reminders of the struggles facing people seeking refuge in the UK, and how RSD has helped them, came from two of our clients who addressed the meeting.

“I am so grateful to RSD which helped me in all possible ways,” client R began her story. In addition to her battles with government bureaucracy, “I had mental health issues, my life was just in chaos. If RSD hadn’t helped in 2021, I would have stayed in a super-dark place,” she recalled. “I was a victim of domestic violence, and couldn’t break away from it. All the RSD team helped me when I had to flee. When you are alone in this country with no money, it feels impossible. You, RSD, transform lives.”

Client M from Darfur described how she arrived in the South West under the government's Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme after a long time in Jordan.

“A new language, a new country, I didn’t know anyone,” she recalled. “I didn’t know how to communicate with people, I was scared.” She described how she was met at Birmingham airport by RSD’s Souad Fadel and taken to her new home in Exeter. “Everything was fixed, including where to get halal food. RSD supported us to go to a GP, and getting our kids into school. Me and my husband – I mean, my husband and I – got good results studying English at Exeter College. I did an online cake-making course and made a celebration cake for RSD’s 20th birthday.

“My children are happy with their life here. I have good connections with my neighbours – they like me and I like them. I sometimes send them cakes. My husband is working in Amazon. I volunteer in a charity shop.”

RSD volunteer Jeremy Toye reported that 35 organisations were involved in the Symposium on Refugees held at RAMM and the Phoenix in June as part of Refugee Week. “Two main themes emerged from the meeting,” Jeremy said. “They were the need to work together through exchange of information, and the need for training on the ever-changing rules affecting asylum seekers in particular.” It is now proposed to invite all organisations in Devon involved in supporting refugees to join a Google Groups network, allowing interchange of information and ideas in a safe, moderated environment.

Since the last AGM, Ben Hudson, Bernadette Chelvanayagam, Liz Oxburgh and Grace Frain had stood down as trustees, with Shurouk Al-Sabbagh and Chris Hill also standing down at the AGM. Bob Mycock stood for re-election and was confirmed. Anna Camillieri has joined as communications trustee, John Green signed up to work on client participation, and Edie Fassnidge and Kevin Hunter are new fundraising trustees. All those present agreed to their appointment.

JT

Read Refugee Support Devon Annual Review 2021 - 2022 (PDF)

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