Holywood Resettlement Group

Moved by recent, devastating events in Afghanistan and determined to take action, residents of Holywood, a town to the north of Belfast in Northern Ireland, came together to form Holywood Resettlement Group set up to welcome an Afghan refugee family to their town.

Working under the wing of Holywood Shared Town, an established community organisation (and registered charity), this volunteer group aims to become a Community Sponsor, supporting a resettled Afghan family over a period of at least two years, helping them to adjust and make a new life in Northern Ireland.

Resettled families are vulnerable people forced to flee their homes in Afghanistan. They have all suffered the loss of their home and are separated from everything that is familiar.

Many have lost loved ones, friends and family or survived violence or torture. Others may have specific medical needs or disabilities.

Supporting a vulnerable, resettled family is a significant responsibility. Most refugee families have been settled under the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme coordinated by the Department of Communities. However, increasingly local communities in Northern Ireland are keen to play their part through the Community Sponsor scheme to welcome additional families.

Every Community Sponsor is approved by the Home Office (and the NI Executive Office in Northern Ireland) and supported by Reset, an organisation funded by the Home Office to provide training and support to groups like this. Once approved as a Community Sponsor, Holywood Resettlement Group, will be matched with a family who have been identified as in need of resettlement by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.

The Holywood Resettlement Group supports these families, the moment they step off the plane through their first year in Northern Ireland, offering a warm welcome and then giving the emotional and practical support they need to make Holywood their home. Above all, they will give the family friendship and the security of knowing they are part of our community.

Their responsibilities begin with raising £9000 to cover essential expenses required in the first six weeks (food and clothing, interpreters, rent, heating, broadband etc.) before the benefits to which they are entitled as refugees kick in. The team will also secure affordable housing in the town for at least two years, find school places for the children and make sure the family is registered with the local GP and social services. They will organise regular English tuition for all the family and connect them with other services. And as they settle in, they support them to attend the local job centre, arrange local volunteering opportunities, helping guide them towards employment and self-sufficiency.

Speaking to us about their work, Greg from the team highlighted the importance of the Localgiving to their work: “Whilst we initially managed to generate some charity income through traditional sponsorship methods, it was only when our Localgiving page was set up that our fundraising took off. For a small, community charity group, with limited support networks, Localgiving provided us with an online presence and reach beyond our immediate contacts. We have been able to signpost directly to our Localgiving fundraiser projects from social media channels and, most effectively for us, we added a QR code to the printed version of our HRG leaflet, linking directly to the site.”

Help support them here, any funds not used for the family will be donated to the Afghan emergency appeal, there are minimal administrative groups and all donations go to resettling a family.