1582715146_b657e350-b739-4957-a626-4a1fa5e54bf7©Kira Vos Photography

In the second of a series of articles by Refugee Welcome Wanstead – a community group planning to welcome a Syrian refugee family to Wanstead – Eleanor Taylor celebrates the group’s first milestone

The Refugee Welcome Wanstead project – which is made up of five churches: St Mary’s Woodford, Wanstead Parish, Our Lady of Lourdes, St Gabriel’s and St Peter’s-in-the-Forest – has achieved its first milestone, and raised the minimum funding needed to apply to welcome a Syrian refugee family to our community.

Covid-19 has presented us with some unforeseen hurdles, but we’re pleased to be able to let you know how we’re getting on, and to thank everyone who has supported us so far. The Covid-19 outbreak has had a real impact on our project. Plans for fundraising activities this summer have had to be shelved, making it harder to raise vital funds. Our volunteers have also found themselves juggling new working and home arrangements, and volunteering locally for the fight against the virus. However, the pandemic has also brought to life one of the reasons why our project is so important.

The danger posed by Covid-19 in refugee camps is dire. The majority of displaced people in the world already contend with underlying health conditions, malnutrition and poor sanitation, worsening the threat of the virus. Social distancing is impossible when access to necessities involves standing in queues for hours, and hand-washing is difficult when access to clean water and soap is severely limited. Access to medical treatment for those who do catch the virus is restricted, and for the most severely affected, the chances of being able to access adequate facilities are slim.

That’s why it’s more important than ever that we keep working to take a Syrian refugee family out of danger and welcome them into our community here in Wanstead. We’re currently working to finalise our formal application, to get the wheels in motion.

The Community Sponsorship Scheme can take up to six months to be processed by the Home Office. Our detailed application is submitted and checked, then the Home Office, along with the UNHCR, begin to identify a family whose needs we will be able to support. Although we don’t know what the long-term delays caused by Covid-19 will mean for our planned timetables, we’re getting on with submitting our application, so we can be ready whenever we are needed.

We’ve been overwhelmed by the support we’ve already received from people in Wanstead and Woodford, and beyond; you’ve all been so generous with donations, encouragement and offers of help. Once we know more about when we can expect a family to join us, we will need lots more help and support, especially from people who have experienced the system or who have relevant language skills.

For more information, follow the group on Twitter @RefugeeWanstead or email refugeewelcomewanstead@gmail.com