I’m Bea, the Campaigns and Policy Lead here at Reset. I first joined Reset in 2022, however, my journey with Community Sponsorship (and Reset!) started way back in 2017.
I started a Community Sponsorship group in my local area, Peckham in South London, when I was 18. I was on my gap year, interested in politics and wanted to do something practical to support refugees.
This is when I found out about Community Sponsorship. A tangible way to bring together your community and welcome refugees to your neighbourhood. What sounds better than that?!
I got to work straight away. I printed off leaflets at work. I spent two weeks leafletting my local area asking people who wanted to help refugees come to a meeting at our community centre. I’d visited a meeting hosted by Herne Hill Welcomes Refugees to understand a bit more about what Community Sponsorship is. If you are thinking about doing Community Sponsorship, I’d recommend reaching out to Reset or a nearby group to ask for advice!
I was told to expect 15-20 people at the first meeting. You can imagine my surprise when over 100 people turned up!
Stood in front of this crowd, I realised I knew very little about this scheme. However, the energy in the room and excitement of this crowd led me to believe that no matter what, I didn’t need to be an expert on this, we just needed a community effort. We had people who’d recently moved to the area and wanted to meet other locals, people who’d lived there for over 30 years and people who were from nearby neighbourhoods who wanted to get involved in showing that refugees are welcome.
On that first night I asked people to commit to meeting a week later. I’d recommend in the early stages trying to get people together regularly and give out tasks. In the second meeting we split people into the teams I’d created based on what was recommended on the Home Office application (housing, fundraising, education, benefits, healthcare, and befriending).
Once groups were sorted, I asked someone to lead each one and schedule to meet and go over what they might need. I have to be honest, the information available at this time was not much! Having worked at Reset, I know that there is so much more available to groups, and so much more guidance, check out our training website for detailed information.
To raise money we had community picnics (run mostly by my mum!), pub quizzes, wedding registry donations and local business donations. I spent a lot of time going to local cafes, businesses, getting our local Refugee Response group all on the same page about this. I wanted to get this right, but I know that you definitely don’t need to be as much of a planner or as prepared as I was!
We found a local landlord with support from another Community Sponsorship group. They’d done a ‘landlord drive’ whereby they handed out leaflets and spoke at local schools asking people to spread the word of the scheme in the hopes that a local landlord would consider offering their property. People find all different ways to get the accommodation through Community Sponsorship, Reset offer lots of advice about creative ways to think about this!
We went to our local Law Centre for training on how to understand the benefits system and apply for Universal Credit. Reset offer this training now – it is less ‘do-it-yourself’ and there is so much more support available as I mentioned earlier!
Once we had all of the bases covered, we put it into our Home Office application. Once approved, we were matched with a family who arrived in March 2019.
The group still see the family to this day. The family have settled in and sometimes work with us at Reset to help share the message of Community Sponsorship. I cannot believe how far this scheme has come, I am so proud of everyone’s involvement, I can’t wait to see how many more people can be welcomed this way!