Harrogate District of Sanctuary was founded in 2016 and is an organisation that promotes the inclusion and welfare of refugees and asylum seekers, supports communities and organisations that offer assistance to refugees and asylum seekers and celebrates the contribution that they can make to our society.
Their aim is to raise awareness locally about the issues faced by refugees and asylum seekers, especially those fleeing war and persecution in their own countries.
The Harrogate District of Sanctuary want to create an environment where they feel welcome and included in society and to challenge discrimination and negative attitudes through positive action and healthy discussion.
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The Harrogate district has been welcoming refugees and asylum seekers for a long time and there are currently around 25 families from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Sudan settled within the community.
Like many charities and community groups across the Harrogate district, the Covid-19 pandemic affected the way the organisation worked and they had to adapt their services to ensure that they could still operate and help those who needed support.
Margaret Bond, Trustee of the Harrogate District of Sanctuary, said: “During the Covid-19 pandemic, most of the families communicated using WhatsApp and made good use of the group that was created as it was used to share stories and vital information.
“Also during the pandemic, befrienders visited the families to deliver toys, books, gardening materials and treats.
“Unfortunately English lessons for adults were curtailed and took place on Zoom, which was difficult for both the learners and the teacher.
“People missed the personal contact and found it hard because they had distractions at home during lessons, particularly when the children were around.
“During school closures, most families were supplied with IT equipment but it was difficult to deal with everyone’s learning needs, especially in a second language.
“Everyone missed meeting together and social isolation had a negative effect on the families but as a group, they are all very supportive of each other which helped.
“Some of the adults even helped out in the community, for example, one man delivered food and prescriptions to others, while one lady kept busy by sewing scrubs.”
The Harrogate district is also currently hosting an ever-increasing number of Ukrainian refugees escaping the conflict in their homeland.
At the moment, there are in the region of 130 refugees, over half of whom are children and of the adults, the majority are female as most of the men have had to stay behind.
Margaret added: “It does not take a vivid imagination to understand the trauma that these Ukrainian refugees have experienced and the anxiety felt at leaving beloved partners and other family members behind, to then find themselves in a new country where they don’t speak the language or know the culture.
“This is why the District of Sanctuary is here and ready to help as we offer practical help and advice to host families and their guests by running weekly drop-in meetings in Harrogate and Knaresborough to offer them the chance to find answers to their questions, but equally, if not more importantly, an opportunity to socialise, meet other refugees and hosts and hopefully make some new friends.”
Those who work for the Harrogate District Sanctuary are all volunteers and they are always looking for people who want to get involved and help.
To apply to become a volunteer, you can download an application form from the Harrogate District Sanctuary website and send it to [email protected]
The Harrogate District of Sanctuary are a charity and would appreciate any donations to help them and the refugees, either through a one-off donation or by becoming a member through their annual subscription.
To make a donation, head to https://www.justgiving.com/harrogatedistrictsanc
For more information about Harrogate District of Sanctuary, visit https://harrogatedistrict.cityofsanctuary.org/
Are you working with or getting any support from a charity in the region that deserves some support and credit after the difficult Covid lockdowns?
We would love to hear from you by writing to [email protected]