Annual report for 2021

Posted: May 11, 2022

You can now download (1.7 MB PDF file) our full annual report for the year to June 2021, browse it online at Issuu, or just read some of what we were up to below.


We could not carry out our work without the tremendous contributions of our many volunteers and supporters. CRRC works in a collaborative manner, recognising that the nature of a volunteer-led group requires flexibility, whilst ensuring that we fulfil tasks that we commit to within given time frames to achieve our objects. We actively seek and value volunteers with diverse life experiences and perspectives.

There has been a high level of ongoing engagement from those getting in touch with CRRC to express their interest in getting involved, suggesting that the operational model is effective.

Thirty-four new volunteers joined CRRC between July 2020 and June 2021, and we have completed a range of basic and enhanced DBS checks, using either the Government online service for basic DBS checks, or our new online enhanced DBS provider for enhanced checks. We have greatly reduced our direct and indirect costs in completing DBS checks and have reduced the DBS checking time down from three to four weeks to an average of one week. As a result, CRRC had 93 active volunteers registered at the end of June 2021, and 48 applicants waiting for an opportunity to come up. The huge number of hours given forms a vital part of the CRRC community.

Regular volunteer social gatherings for existing volunteers to exchange thoughts and ideas, and to introduce new prospective volunteers to understand what they were signing up for, were continued, online and in person, whenever Covid-19 restrictions allowed.

Our heartfelt thanks to all volunteers and supporters of CRRC for their commitment and tremendous contributions to CRRC’s work!

Beneficiaries

Who benefits from CRRC’s activities?

  • Refugees settling or resettled by the authorities predominantly into Cambridge and Cambridgeshire benefit by being assisted in their settlement and integration into the community.
  • Local communities including community groups and faith groups into which the refugees are settling or being resettled, profit by fostering and promoting diversity and social cohesion.
  • Relevant statutory authorities, politicians, and others involved in policy-making and decision-making on issues affecting refugees benefit by being supported in the delivery of their statutory function.

CRRC accepts referrals from refugees themselves or from other individuals, organisations or authorities, and considers whether assistance sought is consistent with the organisation’s purposes. Decisions on providing assistance are made at quorate meetings of the trustees or as otherwise permitted by the constitution. The trustees have regular meetings, where decisions are tabled at an open discussion. There is also the opportunity for suggestions to be submitted within our online group forum. Once decisions have been submitted, the trustees discuss and then vote for the preferred option. The trustees discuss and adapt to changing local and national circumstances and the needs of the beneficiaries.

Benefits

In setting CRRC’s objectives and planning our activities, trustees have given serious consideration to the Charity Commission’s general guidance on public benefit:

By supporting and promoting the welfare and inclusion of all refugees predominantly in Cambridge and Cambridgeshire, there is a public benefit to refugees, the local communities and stakeholders in creating a welcoming and safe environment for refugees. CRRC achieves this by providing a range of practical support (including providing welcome packs and household necessities to refugees), organising social events for the refugees, CRRC volunteers and the local communities, and securing and preparing accommodation.

By supporting refugees to adapt to their new environment, the local communities benefit from the refugees’ contributions and involvement in the local community, whether by way of employment, social cohesion etc. In addition to the examples provided above, CRRC assists refugees to develop employability skills and works with local employers to identify appropriate opportunities.

By providing practical support to local authorities in accommodating refugees, both benefit from CRRC’s assistance in overcoming logistical and economic challenges (among others) during the process of settling in. CRRC renders this assistance by, as mentioned above, securing accommodation for refugees and fostering opportunities and other forms of support for unaccompanied refugee children.

By publicising and celebrating the contribution of refugees to local communities, UK society and culture, refugees, local communities and the public at large benefit from embracing diversity and challenging hostility and discrimination in society. CRRC achieves this by organising social and fundraising events for refugees, local communities and volunteers, informing faith and community groups and other influencers on the plight of refugees and their contributions to UK society.

Risk Management

The trustees have considered the major risks to which the charity is exposed, have reviewed them and put in place mitigations. The main risks that trustees have identified are:

External environment

The hardships faced by our beneficiaries have been exacerbated by changes to the benefits system, rises in utility bills and transport costs and misunderstandings about their responsibilities as benefits claimants. Some beneficiaries have suffered from hostility toward refugees or to their religion in their locality. The Covid-19 pandemic has posed challenges to our beneficiaries in many ways and has put pressures on beneficiaries and volunteers working closely with the families. We have worked to mitigate effects by assisting the families and providing information and practical support. Where necessary we provided emergency support and encouraged our beneficiaries and volunteers to adjust to changes by taking advice early.

Financial security

Our ability to continue CRRC’s work relies on monetary donations and donations in kind from groups and individuals. We encourage donations within the local community through social media, fundraisers and PR work. Where appropriate we request gift aid for donations, and, as part of this request, require the individual to complete gift aid information in order for us to reclaim the tax. In the event of a large, significant donation (over £10,000) we request the individuals’ / companies’ address details and undertake due diligence checks to satisfy the trustees as to the source of the donations and ensure that the prospective gift does not conflict with the charity’s objectives. The majority of payments are by cash, cheque or bank transfer. There have been no concerns to date in relation to public donations, and a full income and expenditure spreadsheet has been maintained. Donors’ names are acknowledged in our publicity and accounts with the consent of the donor.

Operational risks

Cambridge Refugee Resettlement Campaign carries out risk assessments for all activities to ensure that risks are understood, and policies and procedures are in place to mitigate these. CRRC has continued to review and update policies and procedures around some key risk areas including safeguarding and DBS checks.

Achievements and Performance

CRRC’s activities in the year July 2020 to June 2021. (Some adjustments were required to the in-person activities during the Covid-19 pandemic.)

Bubble chart showing different aspects of CRRC's work, covering family support, educational support, employment and mobility, culture and activities, NVPR and advice, and campaigning, communication and outreach, as well as internal administration.

Support for Families and Individuals

Who is CRRC supporting?

By June 2021, CRRC was supporting 25 families being resettled under the UK Government’s resettlement programmes with an additional eight individuals or families living in Cambridge, who had arrived in the area other than through the resettlement programmes – some asylum seekers and some refugees. Resettlement into the UK had stopped in March 2020 following the cessation of resettlement by UNHCR and IOM (International Organisation for Migration) due to the Covid pandemic. While UNHCR and IOM lifted its suspension on resettlement in June 2020, the Government continued to prohibit any further resettlement into the UK during the period covered by this report. However, two additional family groups arrived in Cambridge through other routes.

The Covid-19 pandemic during the reporting period and the impact on family support

At the start of the reporting period, in July 2020, England was just emerging from the first national lockdown and was beginning to introduce local lockdowns. Restrictions on gatherings were re-introduced in September 2020 and a ‘tiered’ system of restrictions was implemented in October. On 5 November a second national lockdown came into force ending in early December when England returned to a stricter three-tier system. By Christmas most of England was in Tier 4 restrictions – the highest level. In early January 2021, England entered the 3rd national lockdown. Schools remained closed until early March. Between March and the end of the reporting period there was a phased easing of restrictions.  

The Covid-19 restrictions throughout the reporting year made it very hard for CRRC volunteers to provide the levels of service we had in previous years. Much of the contact was maintained by phone, and where face to face contact was needed this happened on the doorstep.

One main loss was the absence of the monthly social gatherings. Through the absence of monthly socials, we realised that we needed a better way to keep in touch with families and decided to expand the focal point arrangement. A focal point is a befriender, often one or two people allocated to one family to visit or contact them on a regular basis, assess their needs and communicate with the family support team so that these can be best met. In this annual period, we recruited and established 10 new focal points, nine of whom remain active to date.

Through the focal points and the core members of the family support team, including our all-important Arabic-speaking interpreters, significant assistance continued to be given in several areas including provision of goods such as laptops, phones, scientific calculators, school revision guides and printers to assist with learning under lockdown. We recruited an IT coordinator to help with a good part of this.

I and my family would like to thank you and CRRC in general for the great support. You paid for my summer English language course, my new washing machine and also bicycles. All these things help us a lot. CRRC is one of the best charity organisations looking after people who are really in need. May God bless CRRC. Emmanuel, CRRC beneficiary, 2021

To support managing covid we purchased and delivered thermometers for each family with school age children to check for evidence of a fever. We delivered food parcels of both dried staples and fresh vegetables for those reluctant or unable to leave their houses. Cambridge Community Kitchen delivered ready-made vegan meals to some of the CRRC families and the One Hope Foundation delivered halal meat on a request basis.

Several families had to move house during the periods of respite from the harshest restrictions, due to their private tenancies ending or other reasons. CRRC volunteers assisted with coordinating the moves and refurbishing the new properties. We source furniture from the local charity Emmaus, The Besom Project and through our own donation channels, coordinated by the CRRC donations team. CRRC also funds replacement of broken white goods. We also provided emergency assistance to three siblings – the children of an existing beneficiary, right at the start of the second lockdown.

The wall and window of a room, showing repainting being done. A happy team after a long and successful day of decorating.

 

The majority of the CRRC families do not have cars and we were alerted to a build-up of unwanted items both inside and outside of their homes. We spent considerable effort organising to have this refuse cleared through hiring a man with a van, using volunteers’ efforts and vehicles, and paying for the city council street collection of bulky-goods service.

Transition from ‘Refugee Leave’

The first five families to arrive in Cambridge under the Government’s resettlement schemes completed their five years of ‘Refugee Leave’ during the reporting period. This means that Cambridge City Council is no longer funded to support them, and they are expected to be independent of council assistance after this. CRRC is not constrained in the same way as the Council and is committed to continue to provide support and friendship for all families transitioning from Refugee Leave to ‘Indefinite Leave to Remain’ where continued support is needed or wanted.

A very first issue in making the transition is for the whole family, including all the children, to make their way down to Croydon where the Home Office will take their ‘biometrics’ (photographs and fingerprints) and issue them with new residents’ cards endorsed with ‘Indefinite Leave to Remain’. This is the individual’s proof of their right to remain in the UK, and access employment and services like any other permanent resident. CRRC assisted all five families with travel arrangements to Croydon and paid the travel costs which, for a whole family, can be significant, particularly for families who rely on benefits or are on a low income.

Supporting growing families

The feet of a baby on a sandy background.

A doula is a birth attendant; a non-medical but trained person who can accompany the expectant mum to medical appointments and be a birth partner if desired. They can explain and offer support to navigate the antenatal and postnatal system as it exists currently in Cambridge. They can help with breastfeeding concerns and are generally there to calm and reassure the parents through the whole process of pregnancy, labour, birth and postnatal care. They can act as an advocate and also a home help. The role is varied and varies according to the expectant mum’s needs and wishes. CRRC has a working relationship with the charity and organisation Doulas UK, who offer, through volunteering for CRRC, the refugee mother the chance to have a professional doula accompany her.

During the time period of this annual report CRRC arranged for a doula to support one pregnant mother throughout her pregnancy. It was especially important when the baby showed signs of a serious tongue-tie and could not feed properly. The doula acted quickly and sourced a tongue-tie practitioner to carry out the procedure within days of the problem being diagnosed. Soon after, the baby was feeding well and mum and child have not looked back. The donations team supplied this family with new bunk beds for older siblings, a double buggy, baby clothes and a range of other requested items.

Indeed, for each new baby CRRC gives a grant of £200 per child to help the parents buy necessary items.

One mother explains: “CRRC helped me a lot when I was pregnant. And after that I received a baby grant for my baby. Thanks, CRRC.

Gardening project

During this reporting period, the CRRC gardening team limited the number of volunteer gardeners to five as this helped to work with some social distancing and has enabled a shared understanding of the need to keep volunteers and families safe from Covid-19. We are fortunate that all the volunteers are experienced and knowledgeable gardeners, who have been prepared to turn up and work on a regular basis.

We continued to help with the gardens of two single-parent families in the city. This has mostly involved mowing and clearing weeds plus providing seeds and seedlings. Although CRRC’s aim is for all families to become independent gardeners, this is unlikely to happen while each of these parents has so many other issues to manage. The gardening team also worked in the gardens of three recently arrived families in Girton, Willingham and Trumpington.

After an initial visit and discussion with each family, basic gardening equipment was provided, according to need, and this typically included a push-mower, a spade, a watering-can and a trowel. Generally, potatoes, broad beans, climbing beans, tomatoes, courgettes, and herbs are planted, but the gardening team also tries to respond to specific requests such as strawberry plants for the children.

The pandemic has changed the way we interacted with families to some extent as volunteers have had to refuse their offers of hospitality, but we still have a chance to have a chat and are always made to feel very welcome.

Green leaves with an orange fruit peeking out between. Runner-bean plants with red flowers and long green beans.

 

Case Study

One of CRRC’s beneficiaries who had arrived in late 2015 had three children from her previous marriage living in Gaza. CRRC assisted her make a family reunion application to the Home Office and, when this was refused, to lodge an appeal to the Immigration Tribunal. The appeal was successful and in August 2020 the three siblings were granted entry visas to the UK valid until mid-December 2020.

The CRRC beneficiaries’ ‘focal-point’ made extraordinary efforts to support the very difficult task of getting the three young people out of Gaza in a Covid-compliant and otherwise safe way into Egypt where, through a local NGO we had contacted, the siblings were assisted to get a flight to the UK, arriving in London in November 2020. The mother had been in the UK since December 2015 and was on the point of applying for ‘Indefinite Leave to Remain’ (ILR) - for which refugees are required to apply after completing 5 years of ‘Refugee Leave’. CRRC arranged for the three newly arrived siblings to be included in her application and they were all granted ILR in December 2020. Having ILR meant that the siblings could access the services and benefits needed to establish themselves in a new place. By January 2021, CRRC had assisted the siblings find somewhere to live, open bank accounts, sign on for Universal Credit and apply for college.

I’d like to thank the Cambridge resettlement and refugee campaign once more; here is a list of what they did for us upon our arrival in Cambridge. They helped us find a beautiful apartment in the heart of the city when we arrived in November 2020, as well as help with preparing it and bringing all the furniture. Furthermore, they helped us to pay the rent and the bills for the electricity and gas. On top of that, we were given food and supplies, as well as help to register with a college to study the language, and we were gifted three laptops and a mobile phone to assist us in our studies. We were also assisted in finding a dentist and the treatment we needed, they supported us throughout the process. They are ready at any time to help – it’s a group of very kind and sophisticated people.

Emergency hardship grants and loans

CRRC provides emergency hardship grants to local refugees, who experience severe hardship or an emergency. This type of support is intended as a short-term solution, rather than a long-term financial commitment. The application process for a hardship grant is overseen by the trustees and follows the emergency hardship grant policy. We provided two hardship grants in the financial year ending June 2021. CRRC acts as a distributor of vouchers for the Cambridge Food bank for beneficiaries in especially difficult circumstances, and with support from the One Hope Foundation, CRRC also provided, several emergency food parcels to beneficiaries.

English language and education support

English language support for adults

This whole period has been overshadowed by Covid-19, which severely impacted on CRRC’s ability to offer classes with childcare, one-to-one lessons, and to recruit trained and qualified ESOL volunteer teachers.

In July 2020, after planning and training in June, we offered weekly group lessons on Zoom with a follow-up one-to-one lesson. These lessons ran right through to June 2021. Three or four students attended regularly, including two who lived outside Cambridge and had not been able to access previous classes. A few others found it challenging to attend regularly because of home-schooling children, access to broadband, pregnancy, or difficulty in learning remotely.

We decided to keep the group just for women, as they were working from their own homes, often their bedrooms. This had the added benefit of allowing us all to enjoy some much-needed light relief in dark times. Particularly memorable was the occasion one student pulled back her scarf to reveal she had dyed her hair pink to cheer up the dreary lockdown days.

We worked on relevant topics and increasing accuracy, including describing feelings in lockdown, using the past simple to tell our life stories and to describe accidents and talking to the teacher. The follow-up one-to-one lessons enabled students to reinforce the language learned in the group lesson and to expand into other areas of their choice. Many thanks are due to the volunteers who rapidly learned and adapted to new teaching techniques.

In their self-assessments, the students reported progress and more confidence. One moved house during this time and has made good friends with her new neighbours. One started at Cambridge Regional College (CRC) and, having been assessed, was moved into a higher-level class.

In December 2020, three young people arrived as part of a family reunion. As this coincided with Christmas lockdown, they were unable to start CRC classes or socialise. From January to April 2021, we offered them twice-weekly lessons on Zoom, at two different levels, to aid acclimatisation and create confidence whilst they were waiting for college places. All three transferred successfully to CRC when it re-opened.

One-to-one teaching in students’ homes stopped because of Covid restrictions. Even as these were eased, many volunteers were still cautious, as they are vulnerable because of age or shielding. It was not possible to match any new volunteers with students.

Rachel Hall, who had co-ordinated ESOL volunteer recruitment, moved on to use her skills as a Covid vaccination volunteer. We are very grateful for her work over the last three years. Many thanks, Rachel!

In May and June, we were able to offer one-to-one lessons in a garden to one busy mother, who was under pressure to provide evidence that she was engaged in learning English. The evidence was accepted, and she was not sanctioned.

Two students benefitted from the generosity of the Studio School in offering them full-time places.

One beneficiary, who completed a full year with the Studio School, received a glowing report describing her as: ‘an extremely pleasant, highly self-motivated learner. She has worked consistently well and is supportive of her peers. She has made excellent progress from Elementary to Intermediate.’

Thanks are also due to the Central Language School which provided places over the summer 2021.

Planning for the future of the support with the English language has proven to be very difficult. There is a steady demand for one-to-one provision, and for the resumption of a class with childcare. Others, who are working or job-seeking, require more specific language support. Those whose progress has been badly affected during the pandemic require extra help to catch up. As the needs of the adults resettling in Cambridge change, we are committed to providing the appropriate support.

CRRC Childcare during English language learning

A very dedicated and motivated team of childcare volunteers have provided service to take care of under school age children alongside adult English language learning since 2016. Before the Covid-19 lockdown, we had a rota to arrange a small activity such as learning colours, numbers and letters by using different methods of play or craft activities. We also read books to the children as well as singing together and play games.

We have noticed that the children love to come to the sessions, and their parents are happy and very grateful to be able to leave them with us so that they can concentrate to their learning, and the children are in easy reach if needed for example for personal care and hygiene or just to comfort in case of any upset. We have been in different venues in Cambridge where we have been both in the same room/hall where the adult language learning was happening or in a separate room with door open to keep us all together.

We have been lucky to have a core Childcare volunteer team who has been coming in to take care of the children regularly for many years. We have also had a pool of university students and extra volunteers helping the core team and introducing fresh energy during the play sessions. We all share the same passion for kindness, creativity, and learning. The childcare team have observed the children, who they had years back, doing very well in their learning and settling into their school environment. The team feels very proud of them, as well as very proud of having been able to help them to gain confidence and the communication skills needed to start a happy and independent journey in their new chapters in life.

After lockdown, the classes have been held only once a week and more of a free play style was adopted with the children. We hope to go back to our usual structured sessions with a small activity during each session.

Educational support for the children

Nearly all school-aged children from CRRC’s beneficiaries have been enrolled in the one-to-one tuition programme provided by CRRC’s children’s tuition team. Some pre-school children also have tutors. CRRC volunteers are matched with the families, and they generally meet the children once a week, usually on a Saturday. The aim of this support is to help the children: develop language skills; encourage conceptual understanding; increase knowledge of their cultural community; and to build confidence and self-esteem.

Many of the CRRC’s children’s tuition volunteers are also students and lecturers of Cambridge University and Anglia Ruskin University. These young people often continue their interest in the refugee crisis after graduating. Although the group of volunteers used to meet once a month to exchange ideas, resources and concerns, we still keep in touch through telephone calls and written reports. Many volunteers have signed up for web-based training with FutureLearn and, indeed, many helped to create this on-line training.

The one-to-one teachers of school-age children often also help, after obtaining written consent from the family, with liaising with the child’s school so that the child is supported in following the curriculum at the appropriate level. Schools send a significant number of emails or letters to families, which they may struggle to understand. With written consent from the family, it has been possible to get routine emails from schools directed to a CRRC member so that important messages, such as notice of a parent’s evening can be flagged to the family.

Several of the one-to-one tutors have become close friends with the children and the entire family and have engaged with many different aspects of family life over time. Since July 2020, 35 tutors have been supporting the children of the families. Despite the difficulties arising from the Covid-19 pandemic and having to connect virtually, recruitment of volunteers has remained robust. Refugee Education UK also provided three mentors to support the children.

First language support for the children

CRRC commissioned further Arabic classes, and Saussan Khalil, who teaches the classes, reported that, despite the challenges of online learning, six of the 12 children enrolled attended regularly by Zoom and were making good progress.

Focus on employment and mobility

Employment support

The good news is that several of the refugee adults have succeeded in getting themselves into some form of work. Often these were part-time jobs to allow them to continue at college to improve their skills, especially in English. The need for better English continues to be an employment barrier for many of them, especially in reading and writing. Our English classes have been hampered by Covid restrictions. Inventive ideas have been applied and we are now getting back on track.

Other advances made include the following:

  • Peterborough Asylum and Refugee Community offered a great service by which an adviser meets with individuals to find out their current capability and work interests, and then assesses what they need to do to be ready to apply for jobs or to set up their own business.
  • A Department of Work and Pensions manager advised us on the range of services the Careers Service in Cambridge and Huntingdon makes available to refugees, both offices are used by our folks.
  • Organizations like PAZ extend their services to UK refugees, but as they are mainly aimed at professionals relatively few of our refugees may benefit.

CRRC volunteers have been asked to find out from the family members what works best as an approach to gaining employment, and let the trustees know. As the pandemic lessens its grip, we shall contact local employers to see what might be available for refugees – as volunteers; as apprentices or trainees; and as employees. CRRC has several volunteers who are willing to offer mentoring support to individuals and we shall pursue those opportunities.

Those beneficiaries who have started their own food businesses are slowly picking up custom as they develop their business acumen. We look forward to extending our means of supporting the refugee families to enable them to achieve finical independence and personal dignity.

Mobility support

Bicycle project

Bikes help people get around Cambridge, visit friends, and enjoy holiday breaks, but a side effect of the pandemic was global supply problems, and, as a result, second-hand bikes dramatically increased in price.

The need for bikes for all, led to the recruitment of Amanda as bike coordinator who has worked in part with The Bike Project in London to provide each beneficiary of CRRC, both adult and child, with a working bike, plus helmet, lights and a secure lock. Bike training has been delayed due to lockdown restrictions but is planned.

Support with passing the UK driving test

In 2014 – a year before the first wave of resettling refugees arrived in the UK – the Government introduced new rules that required the driving theory test to be taken in English (or Welsh) rather than a range of foreign languages that had been available until then. This meant that refugees arriving in the UK with little or no English, despite being drivers in their home countries, were effectively barred from driving until their English could reach a standard allowing them to undertake the theory test. The driving theory test became as much a test of the nuances of the English language as it did about understanding the highway code and the rules of the road. With plummeting test pass rates and under pressure from a range of interest groups, the government changed tack in April 2020 and made the theory test less ‘wordy’ and more visual. This had a significant effect on the ability of CRRC’s beneficiaries to have a realistic chance of passing the theory test.

In recognition that becoming a driver would assist greatly with employment prospects, in April 2020, CRRC Trustees had agreed a bold plan to support beneficiaries who wanted to take the driving test. In addition to practical assistance with materials and practice for the theory test, a financial package was agreed for those who had passed the theory test to take driving lessons. Previous drivers were given the financial support to undertake 10 hours of lessons, and new drivers, 20 hours of lessons. By the end of the reporting period, 5 of beneficiaries had obtained full vehicle driving licences, and another a motorbike licence.

Activities and culture

School holiday activities

Faraj, smiling and wearing a white apron in front of posters of food and tables with food covered with cloths.

The easing of lockdown did not lead to the hoped-for summer activities programme in 2020. The risks of returning to ‘normal life’ were too great for many people, and we were unable to organise excursions.

However, several online events were enjoyed, including cookery classes and a wonderful online exhibition about a previous generation of refugees in Cambridge. The families were offered exercise classes online with MAUL (Martial Arts Uniting Lives), thanks to Wendi and her team!

In April 2021, an online cook-along session with Faraj (Faraj’s Kitchen), a local chef originating from Syria, was so successful that a second one was organised just before Refugee Week in June 2021.

We were fortunate in being able to defer a generous grant from Cambridgeshire Community Foundation (CCF) for activities in the excellent summer programme 2021 covered in our next annual report.

CRRC Socials

CRRC has been running socials since December 2015 when we welcomed the first beneficiary families. As the number of beneficiaries and volunteers grew, the socials grew.

The Socials are normally held at a large primary school in Cambridge, one Saturday of every month and organised by a small team of volunteers with regular liaison with the board of Trustees. Very sadly, for the year July 2020 to June 2021, we were unable to run the socials due to COVID 19. During this time, we liaised with some of the families to gauge their thoughts on returning to the Socials. We discussed how we would proceed once we are all able to meet up again. The main concern was how to continue to run the socials and all remain safe.

The CRRC socials serve three main purposes:

  • Social space for beneficiaries. They provide a regular social outlet for beneficiary families, many of whom live scattered across the city and county and rarely have the time or means to see each other elsewhere. It is a space in which conversation, information, celebration, games, music and food can be shared.
  • CRRC contact with beneficiaries. CRRC rents the venue for an hour before the event time in order to use the space to meet with volunteers and beneficiaries to discuss paperwork or queries, offer advice or introduce new volunteers to the work. Translators are available to help in such matters. The One-to-one tuition group holds their regular monthly meeting before the socials. During the socials important public announcements are often made, new beneficiaries or babies welcomed, services CRRC is offering are detailed.
  • Involvement of Volunteers. Once registered with CRRC, many new volunteers begin by helping at a social – in the kitchen, with the children’s activities, setting up and tidying up. From this small commitment many volunteers become more involved in other work – one-to-one tuition, language teaching, focal points etc. Those with less time to give can continue to lend a hand once a month at socials and their help is greatly valued.

In short, the socials provide the face-to-face contact on which CRRC prides itself, involving the whole community, while offering private meeting space for confidential conversations.

We gratefully thank all volunteers of the socials team, some of whom sadly moved away or were unable to continue.

Eid Mubarak

Four photos of tables covered in food.

It was frustrating that both Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan and of fasting, and Eid al-Adha, which remembers the sacrifice of Ibrahim and is traditionally celebrated with a lamb feast, had to be small family events this year.

CRRC were able to mark the events by commissioning one of the beneficiaries, Anas, who is an excellent chef with his own business called Stars Food, to make traditional Syrian sweets as gifts for the families.

Similarly for Eid al-Mawlid al-Nabawi, the birthday of the Prophet Mohammed, Anas once again made a traditional treat to offer the beneficiary families, this time opting for mahalabia, and our volunteers helped deliver the delicacies.

One happy recipient described receiving the sweets as “a ray of sunshine in the pouring rain”.

Awards

A girl wearing school top and headscarf holds a silver trophy in front of a green hedge.

Despite the challenging individual and pandemic-related circumstances, luckily, there were also reasons to celebrate. These can be daily successes however small they may seem, moving forward towards independence through various ways, or just a moment of being grateful for being safe. CRRC stands closely with all beneficiaries on any occasion, as this annual report aims to illustrate.

This section, however, celebrates two very official accomplishments:

Hend was awarded the Cup for Courage and Loyalty by Soham Village College. What an impressive achievement.

Dear Hend, many congratulations from CRRC once again!

Muayad was delighted to celebrate his graduation in Architecture (BSc) from the University of East London with his mother Wesal and his brothers.

Dear Muayad, CRRC wishes you all the very best for continued success!

 

Campaigns, communications and outreach

Campaigns

Conducting much of our business online, due to Covid-19, had the unexpected benefit of greatly increasing engagement, particularly with the two major campaigns of the year. The first of these was conceived as part of the Europe Must Act movement to highlight the plight of asylum-seekers trapped on the Aegean islands by EU regulations. However, this quickly developed into a joint project with Cambridge Convoy Refugee Action Group (CamCRAG) and student groups to persuade Cambridge City Council to make three key pledges: to resettle more refugees as the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme comes to an end; to state its support for the principle of relocation of asylum-seekers from overcrowded and dangerous camps to places of safety to have their applications processed; and to agree to explore the possibility of Cambridge becoming an asylum dispersal area.

Galvanised by the horrific blast at Beirut port in August 2020, which affected some of the VPRS families already settled in Cambridge, and by the appalling fire in Moria camp on Lesvos in September 2020, the Cambridge Will Act for Refugees campaign saw our online petition become the largest virtual petition the Council had ever received, supplemented by in-person signatures gathered by students on Kings Parade. CRRC Trustee Adrian Matthews gave an interview in October 2020 to BBC Radio Cambridgeshire on the campaign just before presenting the petition to the full Council meeting. All three pledges were agreed, with the ruling Labour group announcing that they would like to resettle up to 200 more refugees over the next five years.  As well as promoting this campaign, our social media platforms were very active in support of collections of clothes and aid run by CamCRAG for the survivors of the Moria fire.

The second major campaign of the year kicked off in March 2021 with the opening of the public consultation into the Government’s New Plan for Immigration. Human rights, refugee and asylum support organisations reacted with outrage to this plan, organising into a broad coalition movement called Together With Refugees to resist the proposed legislation. CRRC was proud to sign up to this movement and co-ordinated a webinar with CamCRAG and the student-run legal aid charity Solidaritee to talk participants through possible responses to the misleading questions in the consultation. Around 20 participants took part and came away with well-researched and useful information, for which we are very grateful to Lexy Netty and Nadine Finch.

Accommodation

We have continued to seek local properties for potential let to refugee families arriving through the VPRS schemes, and, towards the end of the year, for those arriving from Afghanistan under the ARAP (Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy). Initial discussions with Landlords/ladies who contacted us to discuss this possibility were followed by signposting to the relevant re-settling bodies such as the City Council or the East of England Local Government Association (EELGA). In some cases, if they had a room to offer in their own house, those contacting us were signposted to Refugees at Home or Room for Refugees. In other cases, inquirers were given information about Community Resettlement schemes and bodies to help them with that. We have fulfilled a useful role in attracting such offers through our website and enabling inquirers to make informed decisions and actions.

Refugee week

Refugee is a nation-wide festival celebrating the contributions, creativity and resilience of refugees and people seeking sanctuary. Events during Refugee Week were all virtual, with CRRC participating remotely in sessions at the Jesus Lane Friends Meeting House and the Fitzwilliam Museum and organising an online Introduction to Arabic Language and Culture with Cambridge University’s Centre of Islamic Studies. Counterpoints Arts curated a film programme ‘Moving Worlds’. All films could be viewed at home. Daily film suggestions and post-viewing discussion guides to continue the conversation were also available.

Plans for the future

Over 2020­/2021, we continued to learn about CRRC’s families, volunteers and working with agencies, Councils, and sister charities, all in the pursuit of resettling refugee families. We have encouraged our local Councils and through them our Government to bring more refugee families into the area and we hope to support them too in due course. Our areas of support all aim to offer skills (English), opportunities (social and work), comfort (advice and care), and fun (general and specific activities).

Causes for refugee displacement can include war and civil war, human rights violations, environment and climate issues, and economic hardship. No one part of the world has escaped such turmoil, and the role of CRRC is likely to increase as humanitarian crises continue in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.

On top of these upheavals, we have had the Covid-19 pandemic, which is not yet over, and we may face similar unpredictable and dangerous viruses in the future. Despite the success of vaccines in the UK, and the great sacrifices that people have made to keep themselves and their loved ones and neighbours safe, the educational and social disruption has been considerable, with huge costs to society and the economy, which will have to be addressed at some point. With pressure on wages, and household bills, it will become more crucial to make prudent choices in providers such as for heating and media/internet, to help spread what money there is. Most refugees have lost everything in their journey to the UK, the process of integration will become even more important as society feels the strains from poverty.

To meet these continued and expanding needs CRRC is likely going to have to pay more attention and time to fund-raising from the public and grant giving bodies. With our robust organisation, our wonderful community of volunteers, the great variety of skills that we can offer, we shall continue to make new friends, and help settle and integrate displaced persons, to the great benefit of our multicultural open society.

Read the full annual report for 2020 »