The theme of Refugee Week 2022 is Healing. A subject that may be pertinent to many of us. However, how do you begin to comprehend healing when you have had to leave your home, career, family, friends and community for reasons of war, persecution, or disaster? When you may have faced bereavement, untold traumas, or have left behind those you hold dearest and with new wounds still being felt? All of this in a new place, a new culture and with legal procedures and paperwork to understand, healthcare and systems to navigate and possibly with English as a second or unknown language. For those displaced people now living in Cumbria, whether as a guest, asylum seeker or refugee – this is a reality right now.
In recent months and weeks, I have learnt from, met and spoken with so many amazing charitable, community and faith groups and individuals throughout the county and beyond who have been working so hard (some for many years) to support people on that journey to healing, whether as a host, as a volunteer, a charity worker, local leader or as a donor or fundraiser for the Welcome Fund. The hours, energy and pure love that people have shown are surely how we open that door to healing for all those displaced and trying to start a new life in the county.
So many of these incredible individuals and groups are operating on low cost, stretching resources, time and energy to bring people together through arts, sport, social occasions, as a new member of their community; supporting them to share their experiences, share their culture, and ensure they have the basic support they need; to engage with education, find employment or even to pass their driving theory test.
The Welcome Fund is purely supported by fundraisers and donors who want to help make that welcome a reality in Cumbria. At the time of writing this and thanks to their generosity, in recent weeks, 19 awards have been issued supporting 47 people ranging in age from 7 months to 72 years old. We know that there will be so many more people still needing that support. At present, these grants are focused on supporting individuals. Clothing (including footwear), food and travel costs (in such a rural county) are the major needs. These grants will make a small difference, but perhaps as importantly, each one also offers a welcome, a recognition or gesture of support made possible by lots of acts of kindness.
While the Welcome fund currently focuses on the needs of an individual or family, Cumbria Community Foundation has also been able to award some funding to charitable groups in the county through other funds. However, we know there is still so much support that is needed in the weeks, months, and years ahead to allow that healing to begin and to progress and we hope the Welcome Fund can also be opened to groups in time.
The Ukrainian crisis has unfolded on our screens and in print and has shone a light on some of those experiences that so many people from around the world are also sadly going through and have been through. Refugee Week is an opportunity for us all to learn and hear from all those people who have lived these experiences, reflect, and think about the ways in which we might help others. I will be learning from them this week, I hope that you will be too.
If you would like to support the Welcome Fund, please follow the link to make a donation https://cumbriafoundation.enthuse.com/cf/welcome-fund. Find out more about #RefugeeWeek2022 by following the hashtag on social media or visit https://refugeeweek.org.uk/.