This week members of The Salvation Army met with Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, to mark the one-year anniversary of the government’s Community Sponsorship initiative. The scheme has enabled members of The Salvation Army church in Raynes Park, London, to form a community response to support the safe passage and resettlement of a family from Syria, who left war behind them to build a new life in the UK.
The mother and father, with their three young children, were the third family in the UK to be supported through Community Sponsorship and the first family to be supported by The Salvation Army. The family was introduced to the Home Secretary and told her how they have been settling into life in London. Since arriving just a few months ago, the father already has a part-time job, while the two eldest girls are thriving at their local school.
In her speech at Lambeth Palace to mark the anniversary, the Home Secretary commended The Salvation Army for its “trailblazing” commitment to refugee resettlement through community sponsorship.
Kerry Coke, The Salvation Army officer who, along with her husband Nick, is leading local support for the family, said: “The Community Sponsorship scheme has been instrumental in helping us to support this family. It was months in the making – filling in the paperwork, getting accommodation ready, looking at schools, identifying local medical support and language tuition – but to help the family and their children integrate into the community and see them happy, knowing the horrific life situation they had to leave behind, it’s been more than worth it.
“Community Sponsorship empowers us all as citizens to work together to do something practical to help refugees. Here in Merton we have seen the community really come together to support us and the family, and in the process we’ve made connections that we didn’t previously have, such as with local businesses, the school and medical centre, as well as developing a great relationship with the local authority. The family always tell us how welcome they have felt here, which is wonderful – and their warmth and bravery are an inspiration to us every day.”
Fleeing conflict in Syria, the family had lost their home and been identified by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as being particularly vulnerable and in need of resettlement to the UK. Formal support from The Salvation Army church in Raynes Park will last for a year, with the exception of housing, for which the responsibility lasts for two years.
Kerry adds: “We’ve grown close to the family and our support for them will never just stop. They’re part of the community now for as long as they want to be.”