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It seemed like a perfect fit!

Ripon City of Sanctuary decided in March 2021 to set up a Community Sponsorship group so that they could welcome a refugee family to their city. Ruth Foulds, who is leading the group, explains why they decided to sponsor a refugee family and how they got the group off the ground.

Can you tell us a bit about your group?

We’re a City of Sanctuary group based in Ripon, which means that we’re committed to ensuring that Ripon is a welcoming place for people fleeing violence and persecution. We’re people of different ages and different backgrounds, but we’re all united by our belief that we have a duty to welcome people seeking sanctuary.

So why did you decide to do Community Sponsorship?

We decided to branch out into Community Sponsorship having supported other refugee families in Ripon who were resettled through the government resettlement scheme. We really wanted to be able to welcome more families, and Community Sponsorship is a way to directly increase the number of families resettled in Ripon (and across the UK in total!).

We also knew that there was a strong base of care and concern in Ripon for refugees and so we knew that we were well equipped to provide a family with a warm welcome. It seemed like a perfect fit!

After you made the decision to do Community Sponsorship, how did you reach out to find volunteers?

We launched on 7th April 2021 with a public meeting (online of course!). We didn’t know how many people would show up and we were blown away when we saw almost 70 people on the call.

Our aims for the launch meeting were to publicise and explain Community Sponsorship, and to recruit volunteers. We were looking for people who could join our core steering group – which is quite a big commitment – but we were also looking to recruit a wider network of volunteers who could support us in less specific ways by doing odd jobs here and there.

Every Community Sponsorship group has to partner with a Lead Sponsor. This is a registered charity that supports your group and signs the formal contract with the Home Office committing to support a refugee family for one year. Can you tell us about your Lead Sponsor?

We decided to work with Catholic Care, who have already supported other Community Sponsorship groups in Yorkshire. We’ve only recently started working with them but we’re already noticing the benefits! Because they’re a registered charity, we’ve been able to claim Gift Aid on donations which really helps our fundraising effort. And because they’ve already got experience of Community Sponsorship, they’re able to give our core steering group some training.

Where are you up to now with your application?

We’ve got a core steering group of 9 members and a wider network of supporters. Our bank account is up and running and we’ve already managed to reach almost £5000 in donations and pledges even though we haven’t even started ‘properly’ fundraising yet!

What’s next?

Next we’re organizing a range of fundraising activities. Meanwhile, our steering group is working on our application that we’ll send to the Home Office. We’ll also be attending our first Community Sponsorship training session with Reset soon.