May 5, 2017

Newsletter March 2017

RRN Chairs Update

The inspiring Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg commented last month on the current post-truth world, “I am optimistic in the long run. A great man once said that the true symbol of the United States is not the bald eagle. It is the pendulum. And when the pendulum swings too far in one direction it will go back. Some terrible things have happened in the United States but one can only hope that we learn from those bad things.”

With the US travel ban(s) the closing of the Dubs scheme in the UK, and the rise of far-right politicians across the world, we know many of us are feeling a sense of outrage at what is happening.

We’ve previously tried to keep our chair’s report as neutral as possible but this month we are taking a break from that and asking those of our supporters who feel willing and able to take a stand to do so.  There are things we can all do; from sharing our views and listening kindly to those who have differing points of view, to contacting local MP’s and other leaders over human rights issues and demonstrating in marches and vigils to support issues close to our hearts.  We believe one of the most effective ways to channel outrage is to continue to organise ourselves as effectively as possible with the aim of extending the reach of our charity and thus being able to help an increasing number of desperately vulnerable people.

As an example of the Ginsberg Pendulum in action – since Trump took office we have had more offers of housing than ever before and have experienced a 20% uplift in new members joining our Facebook Group.  Please do help us by sharing the word that we are actively looking for housing across Hampshire and West Sussex (and further afield too as we have partners across the UK) and stress that landlords do get rent covered at the Local Authority rates.  Additionally we’re also actively seeking foster carers and supported lodging for children arriving in the UK.  Please contact  if you need further information.

Stay strong and keep up the outstanding work – you are all helping to move the world from where it is currently to where it should be.

With best wishes,

Jules and Kaaren

Guide to Welcoming Syrian Refugees
Launch – Wednesday 29th March

The Guide is being launched at St Etherburga’s in London on Wednesday March 29th at 6pm. Speakers are set to include RRN’s Julia Thistleton and Yvette Cooper, the Shadow Home Secretary.  Thank you to all of you who’ve been involved thus far – including Kathryn Bingham and artists Alex Rennie and Layla Andrews who have donated outstanding pieces of art to help illustrate the Guide.  Please do contact us if you’d like to attend the launch event.

Unaccompanied Children’s Initiative

Winchester University with the help of Rural Refugee Network are organising a summer residential and informal gathering activity day for the refugees and unaccompanied children.

Refugee Family Activity Day: Saturday 13th May (SAB First Floor), to include informal lunch, arts and crafts tables and optional tours around campus or into town

Asylum Seeker Residential : Tuesday 29th– Thursday 31st August (St Lizzies Hall, St Alphege bottom floor and PAS 3 and 4), 3 day/2 night summer school with 1 day drama project.

We are looking for volunteers for either of these sessions. Please get in touch if you are interested in helping out.

Trauma Support training : Kathryn Bingham organised an informative and interesting workshop on trauma support therapy at the Hamlin Centre in Bosham run by trauma specialist Felicity du Zulueta. About 17 therapists attended. RRN is meeting with the British Red Cross to see how we can progress this initiative.  Kathryn is also looking into the possibility of offering  a holistic afternoon for the women refugees and carers.  More details will be available soon.

Dubs Campaign Update: In February the government announced the sudden closure of the Dubs scheme to bring the most vulnerable unaccompanied children over from Europe. Unfortunately on Tuesday a bid to keep the scheme open was narrowly defeated by 20 votes.   This is devastating news but the commitment to helping unaccompanied minors remains strong.

Hampshire has done pretty well in comparison to other counties in the UK.

This in from Amber James, Hampshire Children’s Services:

“Things continue to move forward in Hampshire for unaccompanied minors and our commitment continues.  Our current numbers for financial year 2016-17 are 64.

14 children are supported by Hampshire via the Dubs Amendment.  These children came when the Calais camp was closed in October. 9 are from Ethiopia, 5 from the Sudan. Many of them are living outside of Hampshire but supported by the council.  21 children arrived on their own steam. Most of these children are typically found in lorries at the motorway service stations.

There are 28 children who arrived via the Kent Transfer scheme, a voluntary scheme whereby counties across the UK are asked to share the burden from the Kent Authorities where most of the unaccompanied children arrive and are processed.

Of course 35,000 unaccompanied children sought asylum in Sweden in 2015 so our numbers rather pall in comparison.  The RRN has continued interest from those who would like to look after unaccompanied minors, either through supported lodgings or fostering and will be holding a second recruitment this Spring.”

Thank you to Clare Whitaker who has arranged an afternoon tea for the families in April. It’s a wonderful generous gesture and should be a lovely afternoon out for the families.

Emily Mott

Fundraising Team Update

33 Art Sale

Last summer two London based supporters of the charity Emma Thistleton and Antonia Kimbell launched the inaugural 33 Art Sale in aid of RRN.  In 3 hours 70 artworks were sold worth £30,000 and over £10,000 was raised for the charity.

Following on from this success, we are holding the second annual 33 Art Sale on Thursday 18th May from 6.00-9.00pm at Bordean House, Langrish, GU32 1EP.

The standard and quality of art, like last year, is incredibly high with a selection of over 50 artists to choose from. There are a range of styles but the emphasis is on affordable, contemporary art.

The artists themselves are a mix of national and international with a good representation from the South East region. We have some big names signed up such as Rob Murray, the Sunday Times cartoonist and Giles Duley, the humanitarian photojournalist.

If you’d like to attend please do contact us at and we can make sure you’re added to the guest list. This event is a key fund-raiser for RRN with 33% from the sale of each piece sold going directly to the charity

   Frances Horgan

Walk for Hope

Our now annual, Walk for Hope was a great muddy success and raised about £3,000. Delicious cakes and hot drinks were there for those who made it back to Elsted village hall.  Thank you to everyone who came and supported the walk.

We are in the planning stages of a month of Syrian suppers for October (TBC). We will put together a guide to support anyone who wants to hold a supper but the basic plan is very simple – invite people you know, provide some Syrian food and ask for a donation.

Dances of Solidarity is an event created by some friends of  the charity.  The event consists of simple dances to celebrate the unity of the human family and everyone is welcome on Sunday 23rd April 2.30-4.30pm at Hamblin Hall, Bosham Main Road, Chichester PO18 8PJ. Dancing in circles has, for centuries, provided the opportunity for people of all generations to come together to support each other in times of need as well as for joyous celebration. Proceeds from this event will go to Rural Refugee Network, Samos Volunteers and Zaater Project in Greece. Special treat – homemade baklava by Syrian friends available to buy during the refreshment break.
For further details please contact 07768142431 or 01243 572109

 Lucy Aspinall for Hope

Resettlement Team Update

It has been a busy January and February and the resettlement team has worked hard to set up the new home.  The teamwork was fantastic, everyone worked hard and worked well together – thank you!

Keith and Amal have done a superb job with the information guide, incorporating essential knowledge from local people along with useful regional and national information, all translated and ready to go in just a few weeks.

Also a huge thank you to everyone who donated items of furniture for the house, it is great to see it in place and helping to turn a house into a welcome home.

Lastly, we have just found out that a family has been identified to move in to this property.  There may be a delay while some adjustments are made but we look forward to welcoming them to the UK soon.

Spare room and want to help? Whilst those arriving under the UK Governments SVPRS scheme need to be housed in accommodation with it’s own separate entrance many people have contacted us offering a room in their house.  We’d encourage you to sign up with either of the the following two charities if you’d like to help host refugees and/or asylum seekers in this way:

Kirsty & Steve Thomas

Housing Team Update

After having a flurry of enquiries and offers, we have been busy following them up and trying to assess their appropriateness for refugees alongside the local and district authorities and the British Red Cross.  We have come across a few hurdles that we are regarding as learning experiences for the future and we are still testing the water with a couple of options.  A recent development has been overcoming an insurance issue on a property which is leasehold, and we are now proceeding well.  We are now looking in Havant, Southampton, Portsmouth and the Test Valley for general property and East Hants for smaller properties.  The response from the churches has been very encouraging and we look forward to promoting the cause this month at the Havant Homeless Network and the Diocesan Refugee Response Working Group. We are also in contact with members of St Josephs Church in Rowland’s Castle is in the process of buying a property under the Hope into Action scheme and has offered to house Syrian refugees once it’s available.

Rosalind Fairbairn Smith

Buddies Team Update

Over February half-term, Crossover Youth Centre in Liss hosted a fantastic get-together for the women and girls of three of our families. The women undertook their usual weekly sewing class whilst the girls enjoyed crafting, music and games, and — thanks to a talented member of the Southsea family —  some beautiful henna tattoos. It was a wonderful opportunity for the families, buddies and other RRN volunteers to become better acquainted in a relaxed, familiar environment and enjoy a chat whilst undertaking the many activities on offer.  Thanks so much to Claire Kirby and the Crossover team for all their hard work in hosting and organising both this and the weekly sewing group.The Buddies team have also been working on a Job Description for the buddy role, based on what we have learnt from our experiences in the RRN along with existing guidelines from the British Red Cross and researching the experiences of similar organisations in other locations. This information is now available for sharing with potential volunteers as well as other groups nationwide who may be looking to develop volunteer involvement.

Sarah Ali-Prosser

Education Team Update

With a team of dedicated volunteers we now have most of the children in our refugee families being supported with homework studies in English and Maths. This is fantastic as the children will really benefit from this support.

The Rural Refugee Network is able to further support the volunteer teachers by providing funds for study books. This enables teachers to focus on what the children need to study to progress in their school learning. Often it is just a question of catching up after many years out of school due to the difficult circumstances the families have been living in.

We are so lucky that we have so many volunteers who may not be trained teachers but who are, with some support from the education team, willing to have a go at teaching.

If you feel like you would like to help please get in touch. There is always something that you can do no matter how small – it really does make a difference.

The next few months we will be focusing on school assemblies and so we are looking for volunteers to come forward to attend schools and present a prepared assembly of just 15 minutes. Training will be given. Please email Donna at  if you are happy to participate in this next initiative.

Thank you everyone for making a real difference to people’s lives by giving them hope, respect and most of all love.

Rosie Lennon

Cross-Team Meeting 

The date for the next Cross-Team meeting is Monday 3rd April. All members of RRN are always very welcome at any of these meetings (team leaders have all the dates for 2017).  Long serving volunteers, new ones and anyone considering helping in the future, please join us at Bordean House from 7-8.30pm.


We have been asked about donating clothes for refugees and asylum seekers in Portsmouth. Friends without Borders are not collecting clothes themselves but they have set up a system with the Red Cross charity shop in Southsea whereby Friends without Borders will give their clients vouchers that can be spent at the Red Cross shop. This allows them to choose from a selection of clothes. If people want to donate clothes they are asked to take them to the Red Cross shop which is located at 41A Palmerston Rd, Portsmouth, Southsea PO5 3QQ. It’s normally open between 9am and 5pm.

We also support the work of Don’t Hate Donate who send containers of supplies out to Syria – please see our Facebook Group for more details of the next container to be dispatched.