Refugees Welcome social event: feel the love, be the change, pass it on

On Friday night 20th November, Ashburton Refugees Welcome Group hosted a feast, open to all and for no cost other than donations. We invited guests from Plymouth who are refugees and anyone else who wanted to attend, to share food and wine, and hear a talk from former refugee and activist Saif Ali.
Well over a hundred people turned up, the food was abundant and delicious (made by our group and generous community members). We heard the voices of refugees : their needs, humour, wisdom, opinions, recipes, and more. Friendships were made and will continue. Refugee journeys do not end even after arriving here: isolation, no local knowledge or networks, lack of basic household equipment and furniture can lead to isolation and depression, compounding trauma . People here can be both very kind or very cruel.
social talk with saif

Former refugee and activist Saif Ali in conversation with Sophie Pierce during Friday’s Refugees Welcome event. Saif, who was born in Iraq, spent ten years in Jordan and then eight years in the UK before recently being granted leave to remain. He now lives in Totnes, where he has established Embracing Refugees, an organisation which helps local people and refugees build social bridges (see

When you wonder what you can do for refugees: contact local refugee support groups and networks.

Our small event’s donations raised over £800
for Red Cross and Save the Children Syria Appeals. Last night we felt the love and determination in the room, heard and saw it in action.
Small events like these are happening all around the country. This is how change happens. This is what anyone can do who has a good group of people to work with. Feel the love. Be the change. Pass it on.
Post by Lucy Lepchani.

Social Evening on Friday 20th November – an invitation

Ashburton Refugees Welcome Group


an evening of food, music and conversation


Live music from Ashburton’s own Dunstan Belcher;

Ambient World Music Sounds;

A Middle Eastern Supper –

followed by

former refugee Saif Ali in conversation with

 BBC Radio Devon’s Sophie Pierce


‘ 18 YEARS A REFUGEE ’ – an asylum seeker’s journey


FRIDAY 20th NOVEMBER, 7 p.m  – until around 11 P.M

more details:


Donations welcome, to cover costs. Any further proceeds will be donated to Syria support charities.

phone contact: 01364 – 653425

poster artwork ‘moonhug’ with thanks © CEA BLYTH

PRESS RELEASE for our social event on Friday 20th November at 7pm: DEVON TOWN WELCOMES REFUGEES

Press Release from Ashburton Refugees Welcome

By Lucy Lepchani

For immediate release

5th November 2015


Residents in Ashburton have been so moved by the international refugee crisis they’ve set up a group to help raise awareness of the issue. The Ashburton Refugees Welcome group also aims to provide practical, appropriate community support for refugees who live, or may come to live in the town and its surrounding area in future. The Ashburton Town Council also recently adopted a Letter of Intent in support of these aims.

The Group is now also putting on an evening of sharing Middle Eastern food, and will be featuring a “Ways with Words” style conversation with a local guest who was a refugee for 18 years – over half his life.

Yaara Lahav , one of the organisers, said the evening is to be about raising awareness in a fun, friendly and welcoming way.11951116_10153624169289571_7520198125483780574_n

“Although in Devon we’re pretty far away from the immediate refugee crisis, we feel we want to help if we can.  We wanted to organise a social event for all local people, and felt it was important that it was free, to allow everyone to attend.’

Yaara recently met a group of refugees from Plymouth, after attending an event near Totnes, and hopes to welcome them to the event too.

“There are already many refugees in Devon, and many of them are incredibly isolated.  If we can offer them friendship then that would be marvellous” she said.

The event is being held on Friday 20th November, at Ashburton Town Hall, starting at 7 for 7:30.  There will be food and soft drinks; you are welcome to bring your own wine. There is no charge for the event although donations are welcome, to cover costs; any further proceeds will be donated to Syrian Refugee supporting charities.

 There will also be a ‘Ways With Words’ style conversation between former refugee Saif Ali, who now lives in Devon, and BBC Radio Devon’s Sophie Pierce. Other speakers will also be confirmed nearer the date.

Everyone is welcome.

More information from or from the Ashburton Refugees Welcome Group on Facebook.

02/10/2015: MP Mel Stride to write to Home Secretary Theresa May on our behalf!

Mel Stride, MP has written to Home Secretary THERESA MAY on our behalf. Below is the email I received from him on November 2nd. You can also see our previous email exchange in previous blogs, for example:…/a-letter-to-mel-st…/

“Dear Yaara

Thank you for your further email regarding Syrian refugees and the work of the Ashburton Refugees Welcome Group.

I am grateful to you for the time and trouble you have taken to contact me again with regard to this issue and I have made a careful note of the points you raise in your email. I confirm that I have now written to the Home Secretary, Theresa May, to raise the issues you highlight with her. As soon as I have any further news, I will be in touch with you again.

Thank you again for your email. It is much appreciated.

With best wishes

Well said, Mel!