Two years since the invasion of Ukraine, our hearts go out to all those affected, especially the brave refugees who have moved to Hertfordshire. We are full of admiration for their courage, and grateful to all those hosting and supporting them.
On Sunday February 25th, a very moving Peace Vigil in the centre of Welwyn Garden City was arranged by Local Councillor Michal Siewniak and the local Interfaith group.
Councillor Siewniak said in his opening comments that this vigil would not change anything but, at a time when there are so many conflicts, it is important for people to come together and reflect on the subject of Peace.
There were readings from 7 different faith groups - Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Bahai, Catholic, Anglican and Quaker.
The Quaker contribution was read by HWR Trustee Vicky Woodcraft, reflecting on the fact that Peace begins in our own lives and must be built, not imposed.
More than 40 people attended, including the Mayor, Councillor Pankit Shah who read from Hindu scripture, and some of the Ukrainian refugees living in the area.
Some of you will remember how powerfully Afghan refugee Shokria spoke at International Women’s Day last year.
This year she was invited to speak at the North Herts Holocaust Memorial Day event, where the theme was The Fragility of Freedom.
You can see Shokria speaking 51 minutes in at www.youtube.com/live/BjShwIf4QNE?si=G6x988NgbOzPRZe-&t=3079
Shokria talks about the terrible events in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s when people were persecuted just because of who they were, and in subsequent genocides.
She goes on to talk about the situation in Afghanistan today under the Taliban. Afghan women and girls’ freedoms have been removed; they are not allowed to leave the house, work or go to school or university. They face torture and imprisonment.
Shokria's speech is heartrending. She concludes by saying that half of the population of her country has had their freedom taken away from them.
We so admire Shokria's courage for speaking out. She is currently at University herself in the UK, continuing her Engineering studies.
‘If people put themselves in the position of those forced to flee their home, and the terrible choices that often involves, they will be sympathetic and supportive.’
Our volunteer Helen Singer was really touched to be asked to write a blog post for IMIX on Holocaust Memorial Day this year. It is an opportunity to reflect how her family background has influenced her voluntary work, her admiration for the work of Herts Welcomes Refugees supporting those seeking sanctuary in Hertfordshire, the importance of telling their stories, and what action needs to be taken to better support those in search of refuge in the UK today.🧡 You can read the blog post at this link and view the Instagram story above.
We are delighted that Lucile has joined the team as our new Safeguarding Lead. We wish you all the best in your role with us Lucile!
This week we said goodbye to the wonderful Catherine Henderson.
Over the years Catherine has been a Trustee, an Area Convenor and a valued member of the Management Committee. We caught up with Catherine who tells us:
"I was involved at the very beginning, when we (Herts Welcomes Syrian Families) were campaigning to get Hertfordshire to sign up to the Syrian resettlement scheme in 2015. Little groups of us from across the county got together and campaigned in our various districts. It felt as though we were pushing on a heavy door and I was amazed when it suddenly swung open. It was exciting and unnerving all at once, but from the beginning we worked with the Refugee Council. We had an area convenor in each district and met regularly around Irene's table. (Irene Austin is of course our Chair).
It's been such a privilege to be part of HWR as it's evolved from just 7 or 8 of us getting together in 2015 to campaign for Syrian resettlement to the charity today supporting over 1,400 refugees and people seeking asylum across the county."
All best wishes for the future Catherine, we will miss you! We know you will continue to campaign for a compassionate asylum system.
We are delighted to share a short video of our year welcoming and supporting refugees in Hertfordshire. With thanks to all our volunteers, partners and supporters. We look forward to working with you all in 2024.
Our volunteer's letter to The Guardian supporting the Fair Begins Here campaign by Together with Refugees was published today. Helen's parents came here as child refugees.
Read the full letter here
Here at Herts Welcomes Refugees we lend support to Fair Begins Here, calling for a fair plan for refugees: https://togetherwithrefugees.org.uk/fair-begins-here-a-new-campaign-calling-for-a-fair-new-plan-for-refugees-that-works-for-everyone/
We were delighted that our Area Convenor Joyce was on BBC Three Counties Radio last night, talking about our work and the lovely art work produced by asylum seekers, some of whom are professional artists. They have generously donated their work for you to buy as e-cards from https://www.dontsendmeacard.com/ecards/charities/herts-welcomes-refugees
You can listen to the recording on BBC Sounds or at the link above.
We were so pleased that HWR volunteer Linda Lennard had this letter published in the Guardian today, in response to their choice of three refugee charities for their Christmas appeal:
You can read her letter here: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/dec/11/ignore-our-shameful-politicians-a-civilised-society-protects-refugees