March 13, 2020

Newsletter Dec 2019

RRN Chairs Report

2019 has been another strong year for RRN. Notable highs include new babies arriving and one of our first arrivals being accepted to read medicine at Reading University. We’ve also welcomed on board new altruistic landlords, promoted Nadia to CEO and recently heard that Hampshire County Council will be participating in the extension of the VPRS for another year.
RRN Co Chair Kaaren Wallace will be taking a step back from her Chair’ing and Trustee duties for a while to focus on family and her growing business but will remain a champion and supporter of the charity.  She has made me promise not to give her another send off but I did want to say what an enormous amount of value she has added to the charity since returning from Andorra and that her strategic brain, vision and kindness will be sorely missed by everyone, and especially by me.  I’m hoping she won’t be able to stay away too long!
In other Trustee news we are delighted to announce two new Trustees are joining the Board; Kay Summerfield and Ian Bell. Kay has been a highly active member of the Fundraising Team since the charity’s inception as well as a Befriender and Community Team member. Having first hand experience of working with refugees, her constant serenity and her dedicated and passionate approach will be very welcome on our Board. Ian was one of the first RRN members and drafted our initial Vision and Mission statement and our first goals (all achieved and/or going strong). He is currently carrying out a strategic review of the environment in which RRN operates to help us determine our future direction and will help bring that to fruition as a Trustee.
On behalf of all the Trustees I’d like to say a huge thank you for your continued brilliant help and support over the past year.  I know I keep saying it – but we literally could not do it without you, and it’s your relentless commitment and enthusiasm that keeps RRN alive.
I hope you’ll join us on December 9th when RRN Trustee Rosie Lennon will be leading a Thank You Open Meeting at Winton House from 6-8.30pm.
If you are not able to join us we wish you and all your loved ones a wonderful holiday season.
With love
Jules and the RRN Trustees

Financial Report 


The last couple of months have been very interesting for the Charity with funds raised through the London art sale and then the whole of October dedicated to Serve Food for Syria. The total from both will be about £5,000 when we recover Gift Aid on top of donations. Our expenditure is expected to be quite a bit higher in the next few months as we prepare a new house for another family by Christmas. Typically, we will have to buy bedding, winter clothes, kitchen equipment and carry out some repairs and deep cleaning to any property that we take on.  As we approach Christmas it is a good time to remind everyone that we can raise more funds by purchasing our Christmas gifts online through the easyfundraising website.
This provides a link to all the usual online websites and stores.  Every purchase through this portal results in a small donation to the charity and it all adds up!

With best regards,                           

Geoff Lennon, Treasurer


This October was another successful season for our annual Serve Food For Syria campaign. It was a wonderful collective effort and thanks to volunteers and patrons who supported our various events, we raised over £3,100 for RRN. The campaign launched with a lovely dinner at Madhuban where we welcomed the Bedales Head Magnus Bashaarat and other senior leaders and teachers. Stansted Farm Shop once again served a beautiful dinner which included mezze, local pastured lamb cooked three ways and stunning cardamom panna cotta. The evening opened with Q+A between Kaaren Wallace and Asmaa who is settled in Winchester and has benefitted from an RRN grant for her mobile hairdressing business. We couldn’t have done it without RRN volunteers Janet Pierson, Sara Osman and a group of enthusiastic students from Bedales.

More on how Stansted Park Farm Shop Served Food for Syria 

On October 17th, Stansted Park Farm Shop hosted a Syrian Supper in aid of Rural Refugee Network as part of their Serve Food For Syria campaign. The event opened with a Q & A between RRN’s Co-Chair Kaaren Wallace and one of the Syrian’s supported by RRN’s grants program. Asmaa, her husband Mahmoud and two children were the first people settled in the area as part of the government’s official Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement Programme. Asmaa spoke in eloquent English about her family’s journey from Syria via a Lebanese refugee camp to the UK and thanked the charity for their grants which kickstarted her new career in hairdressing. 40 supporters sat at a family style banquet table and feasted on Syrian inspired dishes including a selection of mezze, home made flatbread, roast Midhurst lamb and minty tabbouleh. The dessert was a beautiful cardamom pot de creme with pistachio, rose and spun caramel. Emsworth’s Real Estate Agents Borland & Borland donated a case of wine for the event and four students from Bedales School were volunteer waiters.

Stansted Garden Centre donated a jasmine plant to the family which is the national flower of Syria. The event raised over £1,000 pounds for the charity. RRN is expecting 2 new families to arrive in the next few months and donations will go towards items such as furnishing the property,  warm clothes, helping with transport and getting to know their local area.
Any questions or for donations please contact:
Thank you to Kay Summerfield who outdid herself with organising two dinners and helped with the coffee morning. Harting Parochial Church Council’s Harvest Supper raised an incredible £550 which they donated to RRN.  Huge thanks to our CEO Nadia Potts who was supportive in all aspects and helped run the Winton House and WI Coffee Mornings in Petersfield that not only brought in funds but important volunteers.

Emily Mott 

Winton House Coffee Morning

Thank you to all our volunteers and supporters who helped at the Winton House coffee morning to bake delicious cakes and came to help on the day making everyone feel welcome. The event was a success raising £217. Also a big thank you to Petersfield Post who promoted the event.

A special thank you to Djihan Girdlestone who organised, donated the cost of  the venue, baked and helped on the day.

A big thank you to Helen Vyner RRN volunteer administrator for all her support in promoting our Serve for Syria events and helped on the day at Winton House.

Women’s Institute Talk


A huge thank you to Petersfield Women’s Institute who organised a coffee morning in support of RRN. The event was very welcoming and everyone showed such kindness – it was an uplifting experience and the cakes were delicious! 

Alaa – one of the Syrian ladies kindly agreed to give her first talk about her life prior to arrival in the UK, and experiences of settling here. She talked about her dreams and thanked RRN volunteers.  

Thank you also to the RRN volunteers who came to support Alaa and RRN at the event. The total donated by Petersfield Women’s Institute was £145.25, and was gratefully received.


When someone comes along and says to us that they would like to buy a house for refugees to rent we are always very excited. In the last month this is what has happened and we are in the process of working through all the formalities which consequently lead to everyone involved in welcoming a new refugee family into a community.
As always there is a lot of work involved and so we become very busy. We always welcome help of any kind so do please get in touch with us – your support in terms of time, gifts or ideas are always welcome.

Rosie Lennon

Resettlement Team

It has been a quiet summer for the resettlement team but the news of new properties coming up is very exciting! It looks like we will be starting to work on these early in the new year.

If you would like to volunteer some time to help furnish and prepare a new home, please get in touch with Nadia at 

Everyone has always been so generous when we look at furnishing properties and we will be in touch when we know what is needed for the new homes.

Thank you

Steve and Kirsty Thomas


The education team are on the move again! This time we are following on from our wonderful refugee information activities at Stanstead House to presenting at schools in and around the area. We have a number of willing volunteers but more are needed to cover a wider area. Getting the information across to people of all ages about the plight of refugees  is vitally important as we need to let everyone know that refugees desperately need our help. So if you would like to have a go we have other volunteers who can support you which makes it much easier when visiting schools.
Support the Education Team – join this group.
Many thanks

Rosie Lennon

Employment and Training Update 

East Hampshire District Council and HCC Construction Skills fund have formed a collaborative group of organisations across the East Hampshire region that represent all aspects of the communities, to discuss skills, employment and opportunities to share ideas; challenges and opportunities and to work together for the good of the East Hampshire locale.
One such opportunity is available through the Construction Skills Fund for those RRN work with and other similar groups to encourage candidates who are interested in getting a CSCS card.
The programme offers 3 Pre-Employment Training (PET) schemes across the county: PET 1: Multi Trades  PET 2: Heavy Plant  PET 3: Highways  (availability/duration dependant on training)
Courses are running in:

  • Basingstoke
  • Andover
  • Aldershot
  • Bordon
  • Southampton
  • Portsmouth
  • Gosport
  • Winchester

In Bordon for example, there are 3 days of employability work, which is all about how to get and keep a job.  It involves using a computer, discussion with the class and tutor, and filling out a workbook. Then there is a site visit. There are 3 days studying for the level 1 health and safety test and CSCS card. Then there’s 3 practical days at the CISTC centre near Farnham.  This course has a focus on plant and heavy machinery so there will be time in the classroom and out on site learning about plant and having a go on a few machines.
There is a focus on groups currently under-represented in construction, which includes those from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. Most of the learners go on site as labourers for local construction companies, working through an agency. There are a number of different employment opportunities available, which might include working in a warehouse, landscaping, general cleaning of welfare cabins on site. We are also keen to support learners into apprenticeships, where viable.
The only criteria is that they are over 18 and not currently employed. The health and safety certificate is a level 1 qualification so it is necessary to be realistic about whether that is achievable, but FSC are on hand to assist with assessing learners, and providing support where it is needed, especially with English comprehension.
This opportunity has been discussed with Hampshire County Council SVPRS and the RRN to ensure that all refugees families are aware of this opportunity and can be supported.
If anyone is interested in finding out more about this please let Nadia at RRN know.
Clare Masson


Community Team 


Our teams of Community volunteers have continued to offer support as and when to the families. These have included accessing social activities (such men in a shed, sewing and football club), volunteering opportunities, English tuition, skills training in construction, support to access employment, transport/shopping and a lot of kindness to help with the arrival of a new child.

RRN now has in place a team of existing and new volunteers to form a multi-disciplinary Team of Community volunteers to support the arrival of the new family expected to arrive in January 2020.

Last month, Stella Charman delivered a very comprehensive and most interesting workshop for Community Team volunteers about Refugee Mental Health.

The workshop was an awareness session about mental health issues and problems, how they may be recognised among Syrian refugees of all ages.

The workshop covered
1.       What is mental health and how do we talk about it?
2.       Definition of mental health ‘disorder’ and common disorders among refugees
3.       How our mental health services are organised
4.       Mental health ‘first aid’

We are hoping to organise another workshop/talk next year… so please watch this space!
Thank you so much to Stella for her time in preparing and delivering this session.

Nadia Potts

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