Christmas appeal – revised target exceeded

Our Christmas appeal raised £360.50 PLUS £160.00 given to UNHCR on our behalf, taking our overall money raised to £1,375.50 and exceeding both our original target of £1,000 and the revised target of £1,200. Thank you so much to all our donors and supporters, and special thanks to THE FISH DELI for hosting the collection for this appeal. Thank you all for your generosity this Christmas. May this be a peaceful season for you.



Last minute Christmas appeal: LET’S MAKE A THOUSAND! Every pound will be doubled!

Dear friends and supporters,

As the year draws to a close we look back at what has been achieved by the group since our inception in September.

There is much to be proud of – our Town Council declaration in support of the refugees welcome agenda; the platform we have created and connections made within our community and with other refugee initiative; and the social event which brought so many of us together and raised £500 for refugee charities working in Syria.

Since the event we received a further £250 from Buckland-in-the-Moor Church, and, more recently, a further £100. All the money was split between British Red Cross and Save the Children Syria appeals, and Syria Emergency Relief Fund – a grand total of £850!

But we feel there is so much more to do, and the situation in Syria, as well as the refugee crisis within Europe,  are continuing to escalate.

As a special Christmas gesture, we thought it would be wonderful to bring our contribution to the refugee plight to a four figure sum. We have a pledge to match every donation, pound for pound, up to £100 – this means the money you give is worth twice as much. So let’s cross the £1,000 mark by Christmas!

Please make your contribution at The Fish Deli, Ashburton, or by private arrangement through this site or on Facebook.

Many thanks and wishing everyone, wherever they are, a peaceful and safe Christmas.

An invitation to an Embracing Refugees event in Totnes this Wednesday evening

An invitation to an Embracing Refugees event in Totnes this Wednesday evening. All welcome. It would be great to have some ARWG members there.

“Gathering and Gifts” Event Wed 16/12/15 5.30 – 7.30pm
Methodist Church, Totnes
All BBT&D supporters and friends welcome!

Please join us for a gathering to share inspiration, get to know each other, and bring gifts for Plymouth refugee and asylum seekers. We will provide hot spiced apple juice – finger food to share would be appreciated.


Participants in Embracing Refugees’ first Thriving Together day in October

The gifts will be distributed through ABOUT TIME, a volunteer project that provides free lunches, language classes and skillsharing throughout the year for people from diverse backgrounds. They work with many regular asylum seekers and refugees and are providing a celebration on Christmas Day. About Time have asked for gifts for adults (2/3 of their people are men). Please wrap your gifts, and include a message. Suggested items are:
Toiletries (label for gender) – shower gel, body lotion, after shave etc
Sweet Food or confectionery – no meat
No cash – Post Office Vouchers which can be used anywhere are best if you feel drawn to this kind of gift.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Minutes for meeting 5, 26th November 2015

Minutes of meeting of Ashburton Refugees Welcome Group
Thursday 26th November 2015. Quaker Meeting House

1. Present: Nigel Ward, Lucy Lepchani, Emma Brown, Judy Gordon Jones, Judy Marshall, Stefan Batorijs, Sara Andrew, Yaara Lahav (chair), Pip Harris (minute-taker)

2. Specific Apologies: Hilary Townsend, Inge Page, Sophie Pierce, Pete Andrew, Tanmayo Murray-Clark, Tanja Brown, Anna Dunscombe

3. Chairing
Ideally a different person will chair and take minutes for each meeting, to spread the workload more fairly. Yaara chaired and Pip has offered to chair the following meeting. Offers for the meetings in 2016 are welcomed.

4. Review of minutes from last meeting (04/11/2015)

4 i. Update on event Friday 20th November: It was very successful. 160 people attended. The refugees from Plymouth were very happy on the way home, and they texted thanks to pass on to all involved.
A great spread of food and drink was donated; almost all was consumed or sent home with guests. The food remaining was taken to St Petroc’s in Exeter.
Although some guests didn’t eat from the buffet, the food on the individual tables was appreciated.
If we repeat a similar event it will be good to talk to the refugee guests to see what was most acceptable/appreciated.
There was only one “unfriendly incident”: a resident in North Street complained that the event was taking place and left of his own accord after a degree of verbal abuse. Thanks to Hilary for her handling of this situation.
In future it was noted that we need to add to the risk assessment a requirement for 2 people minimum at all times on the door, and when escorting “troubled guests” off the premises.

4ii. Money raised: £500 was raised; this was donated directly to the British Red Cross Syria Appeal. Expenses were minimal.
There was brief discussion about the possibility of opening a group bank account. This was felt un-necessary at this stage, as arrangements could be complicated. This decision could be revisited in the future, perhaps considering a small group account such as run by the ‘Halifax’.

4iii. Further donations. St Peter’s, Buckland in the Moor church have donated a very generous £250. £125 has been paid directly by them to BRC Syria Appeal and £125 directly to Save the Children’s Syria Fund.

4iv. Additional Thanks to those contributing to success of the evening:
• Town Council for reduced rental of room
• Giles for providing the sound system and setting it up on the night
• Sands school, for loan of the minibus and petrol to and from Plymouth
• Drivers of the minibuses (Rob and Jo Feloy)
• Music kit (Andy)
• Music during the event – Stefan and Dunstan
• Food coordinator – Anna Dunscombe
• Organisation of food donations from town businesses – Judy M
• MC for the evening and overseeing arrangements – Lucy L
• General organisation and steering group – Inga, Lucy and Yaara
• Meeters & Greeters on the door – team headed by Hilary
• Speech/interview – Sophie and Saif
• Beyond Border Totnes for their support – Jill Lewis
• Photos – Julia Cazola
• Chief Kitchen organiser – Judy G-J
• Cooks and buffet helpers – including Sally McCarter, Sara, Pip
• Sean – staging and use of van
• Hall preparations – Tanja, Tanmayo, Sara W

Food and other donations from:
Best Cellars for reduced price wine
Church’s – various items
Ella’s Bakery – cake
Fish Deli – main course dish
Gifts and Gallery – photocopying
No 14 – wine
Sands School – minibus and petrol
The Ark – various food items
Tidballs – fruit

These people have been thanked on Facebook. Judy will write on behalf of the group to thank them individually [action]

4vi. Sarah Hopkins – update on meeting with BRC Plymouth
This item was carried forward as Sarah was unable to come to the meeting. [action]

4vii. Speaker at a future meeting to talk about “refugee rules”: this was felt to be a good suggestion and would be considered more fully in the future.

4viii. Modern Day Slavery. Information will follow from the Devon & Cornwall Constabulary hosted conference. [action]

4ix. Tanja’s fundraising plan (Chai and Cakes). She is very much intended to do this soon and has already raised £55.

5. Social Media and publicity update
If anyone is interested in a more active role with this in any way, they would be very welcome.

5i. Facebook. There have been various unpleasant voices and a troll (by the name of “Bryan Palmer”. Comments have been removed and the person has been communicated with ‘off-group’. Comments have also been left making reference on other groups’ pages (e.g. Buckfastleigh’s) and they have been removed too.
Thank you to the group admins, Lucy, Yaara and Sophie, for dealing with this behaviour.

All the posters for the evening event were removed on the two occasions that Judy put them up around town. Andy Dudley (local community police officer) is aware of these issues and he was very reassuring, popping by on the evening of the 20th.

5ii. Website. Help welcome

5iii. Email list and management – help welcome

5iv. Twitter. Account has 36 followers. Lucy is happy to help, but would appreciate another person to manage the account/post occasionally as well.

5v. Face to face communications. Perhaps consider the showing of a film in the future.
6. Plans for the future (short and medium term).

A trip to the Plymouth’s ‘Cultural Kitchen’ was suggested, possibly on Friday 4th December. Salome suggested we could join in; Saif and Jill Lewis are intending to go. It would be good if a few people could go. An interesting drama event “Playback” is likely to be part of the evening. Names (Lucy, Stefan) tbc so we can tell them who is coming.

A number of further suggestions were made by the group:
• Plymouth’s Cultural Kitchen (Friday evening), in the North Hill area. There was more discussion as to whether this could be a regular thing – fortnightly? How many people would be appropriate to send? It could be an event on Facebook if numbers weren’t felt to be critical. The visit on the 4th will help inform this.
• A shared Sunday Lunch. Food was felt to be an important sharing occasion. Ashburton and area locals and refugees. Monthly, in different people’s houses, or a number of houses. An offer to host it in Teigngrace with up to 15 people; transport would be needed. Too busy to do this before Christmas, so explore in the New Year.
• Co-host an event in Plymouth; perhaps take food to Plymouth and host an event there with locals and refugees?
• Cook together. Perhaps even create a cookbook?
• Woman’s group (cooking or craft). There might be issues of women being isolated in the house and not so able to practice conversation. Good to share with other women?
• Any event or gathering that would allow practice in English conversation. There is a real need to learn English. Perhaps visit Plymouth and go out to a cafe and chat? Be mindful of cultural expectations and boundaries. Aware of guidelines previously shared on what to talk about, or not.
• Walking. Picnic sharing, brewing tea/coffee on a Dartmoor walk. Grounding and getting out of the city might be welcomed. Pip has a contact at Shallowford Farm (Widdicombe) where we might be welcome to visit. Possible use of Heatree (hut circle could be hired?).
Stefan to look at specific walk and make suggestions in an email.
• Ask the refugees what interaction they’d appreciate. Hold a “forum” to discern what this is. It is likely that they’ll be able to organise this quite easily via their email groups. Rupert Blomfield (Plymouth Red Cross) would be good to talk to and to let know that we are here and willing to help in whatever way would be felt most useful.
Would a woman’s group be welcomed as several have been through trauma and are especially sensitive to the nature of interactions?
Would they like to meet in Plymouth?
Emma will look into making initial contacts to discuss [action].invite
• Lobbying. This aim of the group hasn’t been a priority, but remains one of our intentions. We could attend local MP surgery, either as individuals (more powerful) or as a group. An individual message is very powerful, much more so than a “cut and paste” paragraph duplication of a group email. Suggestion of an evening where we help each other compose letters. Possible discussion for future.

Date of next meeting:
Thursday 14th January 2016. 7.30 pm Quaker Meeting House.

Lobbying help: a sample letter with some ideas of points to make to local and national politicians. Blogpost by Judy Gordon Jones

At our last meeting, 26th November 2015, Nigel, who has a lot of lobbying experience, reinforced what others have told us, that writing letters to our MP is the most effective way to get a point across. The letters are more effective if they are individually written, conveying a personal message about a common idea.
If you think that the government’s present policy of accepting 20,000 Syrian Refugees over five years from the camps in the middle east is inadequate when considering the numbers of migrants fleeing their native countries, it would be great if you could make your opinion known.refugees_welcome
To that end I have presumed to prime the creative process with a few points you could make to Mel Stride – and possibly other MPs who have a connection to you or to the refugee policy. For more ideas see also Yaara’s letter to Mel Stride, posted on 30/10/2015.

• Local and grass root support to increase the overall and annual number of refugees from Middle Eastern camps evidenced by enthusiastic support shown by many local groups.
• Feelings of despair that we can’t do more to relieve the suffering of people in limbo in the camps.
• Feelings of despair, embarrassment, shame because we aren’t helping with the influx of refugees and migrants that mainland Europe is having to deal with.

Here is a copy of my letter:
House of Commons,
London SW1A 0AA
Dear Mel Stride,
No one can be unmoved by the pictures and stories that we are seeing and hearing every day telling us of refugees fleeing their homes and countries to escape desperate situations that they find themselves in, particularly in Syria. We in Ashburton and Buckland in the Moor have acted in every small way that we can think of; by sending clothes and bedding to Calais and further afield, by donating to the various relief agencies and by reaching out to make contact and offer help and support to those refugees who have found homes in the area. However, when faced with the enormous numbers who are accumulating in refugee camps in the Middle East and the vast trails of people finding their way across Europe, our pathetic contributions are less than a drop in the ocean.
I am writing to you to ask that the government consider increasing the number of refugees that it is taking from the camps and to reconsider the policy of not allowing people who are already in Europe to come to this country. I feel ashamed that we in Britain are taking such blatant advantage of our geographical position whilst some of the poorest countries on the continent are forced to deal with a daily round of traumas and troubles.
Whilst I appreciate that these are very complex issues and that there is a lot of resistance to increasing the migrant population there is also a lot of grass root support from people desperate to demonstrate some humanity in these exceptional and extreme circumstances.
Yours sincerely (etc.)