Salvation Army support of refugees recognised at award ceremony

published on 13 Jul 2018

Homeless Link’s Excellence Awards Salvation Army

The Salvation Army has been recognised for its support in settling refugees with an award. Last week (3 July), a team from the church and charity attended Homeless Link’s Excellence Awards, where they were presented an award for promoting diversity.

The award category celebrates projects and services that reflect and cater to the diversity of people seeking homelessness support. In recognising the devastating impact of civil war in Syria, The Salvation Army demonstrated to judges its pioneering support of the Community Sponsorship of Refugees programme, which allows locally-based volunteer groups to resettle a refugee family into their community. Co-designing the programme with the Home Office, the scheme enabled a Salvation Army church in South London to resettle a family from Syria. Meanwhile in the North West, The Salvation Army shared with the award panel its project which delivers support to six Syrian refugee families who have been resettled under a local authority Syrian Resettlement Programme.

Mitch Menagh, Director of Homelessness Services for The Salvation Army said: “So much of this work is done by people who seek no reward other than helping people whose homelessness has been caused by a devastating civil war – so you can imagine, not only how humbling it is to be recognised by our peers at Homeless Link, but also how thrilling it is to be recognised for every single person who’s committed their time and their hearts to these projects.” 

Rick Henderson, Chief Executive of Homeless Link and Judge of the Homeless Link Excellence Awards, said: “I would like to congratulate The Salvation Army for winning this award. They impressed the judges with their fantastic project to welcome and help resettle Syrian refugees in local communities, showing how important it is to reflect and cater to the diverse range of people who are seeking homelessness support.

“In this the first year of the Homeless Link Excellence Awards, we were delighted by the high-quality entries and the evidence of good practice across the board. The Awards are an important opportunity to showcase the innovative and effective work that our members are doing around the country to support those experiencing homelessness.”

Supporting the resettlement of refugees is a complex project as the service required is wide ranging - from acquiring properties to dealing with severe health conditions.  The Salvation Army ensures every refugee family member has a Personal Integration Plan. As part of this, each individual’s past work experiences, skills and education is taken into account, as well as their expectations and aspirations in the UK.

Mitch said: “For the best chance at integration, each family is encouraged to be self-sufficient as quickly as possible.  But by bringing our communities together and assembling expertise and resources, we try to give them the best starting place so they can make that happen.”

The Salvation Army’s Community Sponsorship scheme in London is voluntarily funded by members of the church and the wider community while in the North West, a support worker is employed to deliver the service. However, award judges recognised the exceptional voluntary contribution by Salvation Army staff and members. Volunteers have spent time cleaning, fixing, painting and coordinating furniture deliveries; they have supported each family to settle in, rallying communities of all faiths to donate for clothes and toys, and household essentials; they have secured and attended appointments with health workers, council services and schools as well as identifying local mosques, translation services and English language classes.

To encourage other communities to support Syrian refugee resettlement, The Salvation Army has developed a range of resources such as a film, a volunteer training package and numerous resettlement documents, available in English and Arabic. When designing the services, the team consulted with an Islamic Community Centre and a Mosque, taking advice on appropriate food to buy and considered guidance from the Syrian Pantry. They considered reports from the Migration Policy Institute (Educational and Mental Health Needs of Syrian Refugee Children); Refugee Action (Gateway Good Practice Guide); Home Office (Indicators of Integration) and other reports. Staff attended training events so that they understood Syrian culture and attended a Refugee Conference to meet people with experience of being a refugee.  

Community Sponsorship in London: one year on

In February 2018, members of The Salvation Army in South London threw a community party to mark the anniversary of the arrival of the Syrian family of five they had resettled through the Community Sponsorships of Refugees scheme into the UK; with a spread of Syrian food, a hand-made cake and recognition of all the people who had played a part. Among the 100 guests were befrienders, teachers, health professionals, friends, neighbours, employers, interpreters, fundraisers and more. 

Ghassan, father of the Syrian family, said: “I want to thank you for welcoming me into this great country. You have helped me, my wife and my children. You have become our family.”

Befriender Tom said: “I’ve learnt that friendship and love can overcome the cultural and language barriers that can seem to separate us.’

Arabic interpreter Wafa said: “I have made a whole new set of friends through supporting this family. It has been life-changing in how I see my own neighbourhood.”

Nick Coke, Refugee Coordinator for The Salvation Army said: “What everyone discovered, was not only did it take a community to welcome a family, but it took a family to make a community.”