All groups need to raise £9000 to be able to sponsor a family. How did your group do it?
We’ve been lucky. CHARIS Exeter has support from three churches, and each church donated £3000.
How important is your relationship with CHARIS Taunton, your Lead Sponsor?
It's very important because they know so much more than we do. If we have any issues with filling out forms or legal queries, we know we can go to them, and if they don't know the answers, they can go to Reset.
Tell us about the support you’ve had from Reset directly.
Reset has given us a massive amount of training and support. I think everyone has a vague idea about refugees to begin with: a bit about what they’ve gone through and a bit about what to expect. Reset fills in the gaps. They know the facts, what we need to do, what we can’t do and why.
Could you give us an example of those facts?
I was quite naïve at the start – I don’t think I fully understood the difference between a refugee and an asylum seeker, and I didn’t know that refugees have a right to remain for certain length of time and can then apply to be British citizens. So when people say, ‘Why are you helping refugees? Won’t they be sent back?’, I’m ready with the facts. I also learned from Reset that the number of displaced people in the world is greater than the whole of the population of the UK.
Tell us more about people asking difficult questions…
I have had people asking, ‘Why are you helping refugees when there are homeless people here?’. My answer is that yes, homelessness is a big issue in Exeter, and through our church we support a local charity helping homeless people. I also suggest that if they are concerned, perhaps they should consider supporting homeless people themselves!
What did you learn from Reset about Syrian culture?
Reset covered a lot of ‘maybe / maybe nots’. For example, some families may want to go to the mosque, some may not. Some women may to cover their heads or wear an abaya, and some may not. We learned about what the family may eat and may not eat, about the positioning of prayer mats and the importance of taking your shoes off when you go inside.
How did Reset prepare you for what the family might have gone through before coming to the UK?
We found out a lot about the trauma the family would have and how that might impact them. For example, if we hear a plane going over our house, we know it’s just a flight on its way to Spain or somewhere. But for a refugee family, a plane flying overhead can trigger awful memories of bombs being dropped. Having insights like that is invaluable.