Caritas Salford works as a Lead Sponsor for groups across the North West, mainly within two dioceses: Salford and Lancaster. To date, Caritas Salford has welcomed eleven families with the help of eleven groups. Anais Fahd, Community Sponsorship Development Coordinator, Caritas Salford, tells their story.
Caritas Diocese of Salford is the principal social action agency of the Catholic Diocese of Salford and supports people experiencing poverty or situations of crisis and challenge through a diverse range of projects and services. They are a part of a global Catholic charity working in grassroots communities to promote justice and equality so that people can live in peace and dignity.
In 2015, Pope Francis made a statement urging parishes to take in a refugee family. It was after the tragic death of Aylan Kurdi and there were lots of pictures in the press raising awareness. Caritas, and the Catholic community, responded to that call. A lot of parishes got involved at the time. As a Catholic charity we were already involved in refugee support, but we wanted to take more of a lead. Becoming a Lead Sponsor was a logical next step in terms of scaling up our impact. Now we can support groups that want to welcome refugees through community sponsorship. Slowly it has grown and we have welcomed 11 families through the support of 11 groups.
It’s very clear in the Catholic community that there was a strong call for doing more around community sponsorship. There was a strong steer from the Pope, but also from the parishes. People want to be welcoming. That’s given the whole community sponsorship movement a lot of drive and provides justification for the trustees, and for everyone involved. Our director is extremely supportive. To be able to go through all the nitty gritty and the complexity of it, you need that internal support. So it’s really good to have trustees and directors who are really on board and supportive. Then there’s more of a chance of overcoming obstacles.
Becoming a Lead Sponsor was a logical next step in terms of scaling up our impact. Now we can support groups that want to welcome refugees through community sponsorship.
The Reset staff have been extremely helpful with answering queries and helping us with facing challenges. It helps that they’ve got a nationwide view. If there’s a situation that we’ve not faced before then it’s likely they’ll have an idea about how to help as they’ve supported so many others. It means that we always feel we can ask them for help and advice.
Reset support us with our case management. So once a month we sit down together and talk through every group. We have nine groups at the moment. So, we give an update, mention any obstacles and share good practice. For us, it’s advice that Reset can give which is most helpful. It also gives us the chance to get up to date on their interactions with our groups and they also might identify something that we haven’t as Reset deliver training to our groups. It’s a good chance for them to hear how it’s going. And they can let us know if there are any red flags, which is reassuring.
We have our own guidelines in the code of conduct and volunteer handbook. We have had some problems, such as getting the Local Authority to give their consent and helping the groups to lead with an empowerment approach. We’ve worked with Reset to find solutions to facing these types of situations. Reset also help to reinforce key messages such as empowerment through their trainings.
We have a big focus on empowerment. When we have a new group, we have a conversation with them about their motivation. We talk about the challenges, such as having a family that doesn’t speak English and what vulnerabilities they may have, whether that’s medical, mental health or other. Once we are confident that the group understand the opportunities and challenges of Community Sponsorship we then move to recruitment, like getting set up with a group lead and safeguarding lead.
We welcome all groups. Up until now we’ve mainly had groups that were connected with parishes and that we have links into. But we are open to working with anyone, including other faith groups. We are especially keen to be able to offer advice and general support. We did have a relationship with an Islamic grammar school in Manchester where we talked with them about community sponsorship and we had a conversation about how to help them to move forwards. It’s good to be able to offer that sort of peer support.