Highlights of 2023- news from the City of Sanctuary Group

As we come to the end of 2023, I’ve found some time to reflect on all the amazing work that people have done to make Bournemouth, Christchurch, and Poole a more welcoming place of safety for all. I’m going to share some of my highlights for the year here.
City of Sanctuary Wellbeing Fund

This year saw the creation of the City of Sanctuary Wellbeing Fund – a small pot of money that was allocated as one-off awards (maximum £50) to individuals to pay for items or expenses over and above their basic needs. The aim being that the money would go a little way to improving their mental wellbeing and resilience in order continue along the precarious path ahead. So far this year we have distributed over £1000 to more than 20 people, and we’ll be looking to start fundraising for the pot in 2024 to ensure this work can continue. Below are some examples of how the money has been spent.

A young separated asylum seeker child in the care of ICN loves football. He plays regularly at college and any other opportunities that ICN and AFC Bournemouth have been able to provide since arriving in Bournemouth. The £50 award allowed him to purchase some football boots and shin pads enabling him to fully participate in all further football opportunities and in turn has improved his mental and physical health, making him feel more a part of the team and has improved his self-worth.
A refugee who has volunteered on the Faithworks carpentry workshops has grown enormously. He is happy, purposeful, energetic and filled with enthusiasm for his woodwork projects. He now makes wooden clocks! However his attendance relies on bus fare support and the award of £50 towards supporting travel expenses to and from the workshop has been a lifeline to him.
Gardens of Sanctuary

We (Thanks to Ruth and Kevin) teamed up with Grounded Community to install a growing space at one of the hotels where asylum seekers are living. The raised beds have been growing salad greens, herbs, and flowers. They also delivered workshops for 7 residents on nurturing the raised beds and pots in English conditions. Inspired by this work, some residents began volunteering their time to develop the Orchard Garden at the old schoolhouse. An amazing contribution to the local community!

Arts and Cultural Events

We had the pleasure of attending, contributing to, and in the case of some of our members, leading and organising some great artist events and exhibitions this year. The first in May was Increase the Peace, celebrating its 5th anniversary. We shared a stall with ICN to talk about our work among musicians, poets, and guest speakers. The event raised over £2,000 for ICN, as well as Hope for Food and Hope Housing. A special thanks to Claire, the driving force behind the event.

Next came BEAF Arts Festival, which coincided with Refugee Week in June. The Stories We Thread by the Seeking Refuge Collaboration brought together all the voices of the Seeking Refuge project; the young unaccompanied refugees, asylum seekers, and all the women and men refugees who go to their weekly workshops to create a large communal artwork. They used an old photographic printing techniques, the cyanotype, a camera-less process, to create as a collage of images using plants from the UK, maps of people’s hometowns, countries and precious objects. On world Refugee Day (20thJune), they also held a day of backgammon and chess for all, part of their Seeking Refuge project. A special thanks to Caroline and Cenan for bringing it all together.

Dignity Centre
Late in the year, and just in time for winter, Refugee Support EU opened a dignity centre. They secured a premises in Bournemouth city centre and converted it into a Dignity Centre, complete with a boutique where clothes are distributed using their ‘free shop’ model. The space also hosts a social café with free hot drinks and provides signposting to help asylum seekers learn about and access services.
Everything else
So much great work has happened over the year that I’d also like to give a mention to:

  • An asylum seeker setting up a free community barbers and library at one of the hotels (With the support of a CoS Wellbeing grant)
  • Safe Passage Afghan Stories evening drawing attention to the lack of safe and legal routes to claim asylum.
  • The regular donations of clothes, bicycles, and mobile phones by the community (Including the particularly resourceful Judith and Richard)
  • Some primary schools starting on their journey to becoming a School of Sanctuary
  • The insightful and informative blog, Welcoming the Stranger, written by a former journalist whose godmother was granted shelter in the UK from Nazi Germany as a teenager in 1939.
  • The work done by those in our sector to support the local universities to understand local issues and reciprocity. (Fingers crossed they engage with Universities of Sanctuary in 2024)
  • English conversation classes set up in some of the hotels by Quakers groups and others.
  • The Threads International Women’s Collective who sold their creations at the South Coast Makers Market
  • B.A.D. cinema nights where unused shopping centre space hosts a community cinema.
  • 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence event held across Bournemouth by Soroptimist International
  • Inara’s Sew Good project, a space where women and their children can get crafty.
  • Creation of a weekly drop-in centre where asylum seekers can get information, learn English, and have fun.
  • Access to Food partnership that gave money to asylum seekers enabling them to celebrate Eid
  • The work of our friends on the other side of Dorset: Blandford Cares and Portland Global Friendship Group

Finally, I’d like to thank all those who regularly contributed to our monthly forums, making them a vibrant exchange of ideas; Ruth, Judith, Kevin, Caroline, Wendy, Bobbie, Gail, Margaret, Susannah, Terri, Cenan, Richard, Rebecca, Rachel, Mike, Anna, Shane, and Miriam.

Looking forward to 2024

Copyright © 2023 Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole City of Sanctuary, All rights reserved.

City of Sanctuary Bournemouth and Poole is a group of organisations, professionals and volunteers who work together to make Bournemouth and Poole a warm and welcome place for refugees and asylum seekers. We are part of a wider movement which is committed to building a culture of hospitality and welcome, especially for refugees seeking sanctuary from war and persecution.

Our mailing address is:

Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole City of Sanctuary

3-5 Palmerston Rd,

Bournemouth, Dorset BH1 4HN

United Kingdom

Add us to your address book


Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp