Refugee Week was celebrated nationwide between 15 and 19 June. Here, in Ceredigion it was a chance to give recognition to the positive work that’s been carried out that has enabled 74 refugees from Syria to be welcomed into the county.
Families from Syria have been able to settle in Ceredigion through Ceredigion County Council’s refugee resettlement programme and under community sponsorship schemes run by two community groups; Croeso Teifi and Aberaid.
Cathryn Morgan, Ceredigion County Council’s Syrian Refugee Coordinator said: “Refugee week has given me the opportunity to reflect on how the refugee resettlement programme has enriched our lives here in Ceredigion – particularly in the towns of Aberystwyth, Cardigan and Lampeter. The variety of events which the refugee families have enhanced or instigated since we started the resettlement programmes in December 2015 is impressive.
“There have been film screenings, an art exhibition, a ‘Flowers on the Prom’ happening, multi-cultural gatherings, food, music and poetry. Ceredigion people are learning Arabic and gaining an appreciation of Middle Eastern culture and Syrians are learning Welsh and gaining an appreciation of local culture. I’ve witnessed the way local people have opened their arms and welcomed strangers who are struggling. I’ve also witnessed the optimism and resilience of families who fled to our shores when the conflict in Syria made it too dangerous for them to stay in their own country.
“Our Syrian friends have helped to broaden our understanding of the world outside the borders of this beautiful area of mid-Wales. Their dignified behaviour and willingness to ‘get on with it’ is an example to us all and I am privileged to be a part of the refugee resettlement programme in Ceredigion.”
Ceredigion County Council won the UK-wide ‘Local Authority Award 2019’ in the Community Sponsorship Awards 2019 for its work with community groups who help families fleeing from war, hunger and homelessness.
Ceredigion County Council Leader and Chair of the Ceredigion Refugee Resettlement Group, Ellen ap Gwynn said: “I am very proud of the way that our communities have been so welcoming of the Syrian refugees who have come to live in our midst. Ceredigion has proved to be a safe haven for them all, enabled them to re-settle in a secure environment and become part of our local community. The children have settled well in our schools and others have found work and even started a business. A big thank you to all that have been so supportive of them, especially to the staff of the Red Cross who have worked with them from the beginning.”
A partnership approach has been adopted for refugee resettlement with Ceredigion County Council, Red Cross and Coleg Ceredigion working collaboratively.
The Syrian families have been supported by the British Red Cross to settle into their new life in Ceredigion, ever since they first started to arrive in 2015. Kathryn Dupont, Red Cross Project Coordinator said: “It has been our great privilege to support these families on their journey to feeling fully integrated into our Ceredigion community. I am constantly inspired by their determination and resourcefulness in what are often very difficult circumstances. It has been a real pleasure to see them grow in confidence and move away from needing our support”
Coleg Ceredigion has been a crucial partner through delivering lessons in English. Rae Cashman, one of the ESOL tutors said: “It has been a privilege to teach English to the Syrian refugees at Coleg Ceredigion for the last three years. I've been very impressed with their positive attitude to their learning, their motivation and their successes. I have found them to be very generous,spirited people. All of the students have faced personal challenges: illness, worries about their children and their family members in Syria. Some of them have gained employment and have passed their driving theory and practical tests. They are my students and have also become a valued part of the college community. In some ways we are different but in many ways we are the same.”