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“You're hoping to catch new people and inspire somebody to start another group in another locality”

Catherine’s Community Sponsorship Group, Croeso Menai, welcomed a refugee family to North Wales in February 2021 and is already preparing for a second family. The community there have been very supportive in helping Croeso Menai to smash fundraising targets and fully furnish a home for the family. Catherine shares her top tips on keeping your community engaged and enthusiastic.

1. Host Public Meetings

We have found public meetings to be very popular, both face to face and online. We held an online meeting during Refugee Week in June 2020 that was attended by over 70 people, and then once Covid restrictions had lifted in Wales we held an outdoor event so that people could come along and meet the family and find out how they had been settling in. As well as keeping your immediate community involved, these big public events are about spreading the word - you're hoping to catch new people and inspire somebody to start another group in another locality.

2. Use Existing Networks

It was very helpful to have our Lead Sponsor, Sponsor Refugees, at our early public meetings to share the knowledge and experience we didn't have. I set up Croeso Menai and I knew quite a bit about the scheme but not a lot. It's important when you speak publicly that you admit your own limitations and have people who know what they're talking about to support you.

We also invited Aberaid, a Community Sponsorship group from Aberystwyth, to talk about their experiences of welcoming a family. Personal stories are always what grab an audience’s attention, better than a generic powerpoint presentation.

This time round, setting up a new team to welcome a second family, we invited Sponsor Refugees and Reset to contribute to the meeting. We also have a lot of like-minded groups locally, including a more general refugee support group called Pobl i Bobl, who help us spread our news widely in North Wales.

3. Be Active on Social Media

Having a Facebook page has been absolutely vital. It’s the main reason we have so much support and it’s such an easy way to keep our supporters up to date with our work. However, we also ensure that we update everyone with regular emails, by maintaining a mailing list of over 150 subscribers, which catches those who don’t do social media!

We started our Facebook page on the back of Pobl i Bobl, which had been going since 2015 and had grown quite a large Facebook following. This meant that we weren't starting from scratch, talking to people in this area about refugees (although Community Sponsorship itself was new) and I think that was useful.

4. Get the Community Involved in Fundraising

Fundraising was the one area that I was really nervous about but fortunately within the group there were people who were bursting with ideas and had all sorts of good plans, so it went really smoothly and we met our target easily. We were astonished! A lot of our early fundraising events were centred around food which is always popular, and we also had some church communities pledging large sums, even though the group itself is secular. We also had people donating money and furnishings when we were getting the house ready.

5. Speak to the Press

I would encourage other Community Sponsorship volunteers to talk to the media. I was interviewed for an article in the Daily Post, which is an newspaper covering all of Wales. There were, of course, some negative comments following online publication but I chose not to look at them. You have to remember that for every person who writes a negative comment, there are plenty who agree with you, but they just aren’t so vocal in the comments section! On the strength of that article we received a lot of positive feedback and support, so it was definitely worth it.