Category Archives: Refugees Welcome

Six MK schools sign up to become Refugee Welcome Schools

At a breakfast launch of the Refugee Welcome Schools initiative on Thursday 29th November, hosted by Grant Thornton LLP and Dentons LLP UKMEA, six MK schools committed themselves to achieving Refugee Welcome Schools accreditation.   These included two mainstream secondary schools, two mainstream primary schools and two supplementary schools.

This initiative promotes and supports a new standard for the awareness, welcome and action, which a school pledges to undertake in support of refugee and other new students in their school.

40 people from 18 institutions attended the event, which was organised by Citizens:mk, in partnership with NASUWT, and co-chaired by Kurshida Mirza and Hala Afify, members of the Citizens:mk Leadership Group.

Cllr Martin Petchey, Mayor of Milton Keynes Council (pictured above), which has welcomed 16 Syrian refugee families to MK under the government’s VPRS scheme since 2015, opened the proceedings by referring to recent news of serious bullying of refugee pupils at a school outside Milton Keynes (read full story).

Testimonies were then heard (through volunteer interpreter Jamila Kaouri) from three Syrian mothers and one teenage daughter, who have recently settled in MK, about the traumatic conditions of school provision in Syria compared with the warm welcome and access to services provided by Milton Keynes.This was followed by three students from St. Paul’s Catholic School (pictured above) talking about why they feel compelled to campaign for a warm welcome from their school community.

Support worker Kerri Chana of British Red Cross (pictured above), and Hasnain Datoo and Shelina Meghji of Building Bridges MK (pictured below),  then spoke about the importance of supporting refugees and asylum-seekers with English language translation and teaching.

Kerri said:  “Our volunteers have a range of different roles.  There are caseworkers, administrators, orientation project workers and English language teachers.  They are all community members who are using the British Red Cross volunteering role to make a positive difference to the experience of newly arrived families.”

Fred Grindrod, Principal Official of NASUWT, a Refugees Welcome Partner (pictured above),  spoke of the international movement to support refugee children and the importance to NASUWT of its partnership with Citizens UK.

Jess Maddocks of Citizens UK explained that the Refugee Welcome Schools accreditation process was straightforward, quoting from the experience of Saint Gabriel’s College in south London, and said she could be contacted for further information about it.

Then pledges were received from MK schools (main picture above) as follows:

  1. commitment Refugees Welcome Schools accreditation – Brooklands Farm Primary School (pledge received before the event), Jubilee Wood Primary School, St. Paul’s Catholic School, The Radcliffe School, Al Ajyad Supplementary School, Middle Eastern Language School (pledge received at the event of the event).
  2. commitment to discuss this at Senior Leadership Team meeting – Lord Grey School, MK College, Shenley Brook End School, Southwood Primary School (pledge received before the event).

Finally Tim Finch (pictured above), Director of the Sponsor Refugees project created by Citizens UK, and Paul Eedle (pictured below), Community Sponsorship Ambassador of Muswell Hill Methodist Church in North London, talked about the benefits of Community Sponsorship and how a school community might embrace this opportunity.

In post-action evaluation, the event was given a score 8/10, with praise for the turnout and criticism of directions about parking arrangements and lack of working microphone.

Leaders Forum launches research teams

Citizens:mk’s annual Leaders Forum, this year hosted by St. Paul’s Catholic School, attracted 40 people including leaders from 16 member institutions and some external guests.  Each member institution presented one or two priority social problems arising from their listening campaigns, powerful testimonies were heard and the following research teams (with named leaders and institutions) pledged to work over the winter months with the goal of reporting to Delegates Assembly on 5th February:

  • Cycle Safety – Craig Broadbent, Deborah Cooper and Phil Ashbourne of Green Alliance, Leo Nicholas of St. Paul’s Catholic School; The Open University.
  • Fair Deal/Work – Hala Afify and Linda McComie of Truby’s Garden Tea Room, William Appaih of St. Augustine’s Catholic Church; Middle East Cultural Group.
  • Housing & Homelessness – Lawrence Morgan and Carol Barac of Green Alliance, Ayser Al jawad of Middle East Cultural Group.
  • Mental Health – Saira Sajid of MK Academy; Gabi and Tom Navin of St. Paul’s Catholic School, William Appaih of St. Augustine’s Catholic Church.
  • Police at Primary Level – Tony Berwick of Jubilee Wood Primary School, Kate Matthews of Southwood Primary School; St. Paul’s Catholic School.
  • Refugees Welcome Schools – Elysia Roach of St. Paul’s Catholic School, Craig Warne of NASUWT, Susie Hancock of The Open University.
  • Youth for Elderly – Richard Lyons of St. Frideswide’s Church, Sofia Hassan of Middle East Cultural Group, Rachel Redford of The Open University.

The goal of each team is to create SMART campaign goals to propose to the Delegates Assembly on 5th February 2019, where three campaigns will be selected for action with power holders at the Accountability Assembly on 25th April 2019.

Research team leaders were asked to contact Community Organiser Tom Bulman, tel 07962 838685,  asking him to attend their first research team meeting and deliver training to the team.

An alliance-wide training workshop has been arranged for Saturday 1st December 2018, 9.30am-1.30pm at St. Frideswide’s Church, where leaders from all teams/institutions will receive Action Research training from Tom and Jonathan Cox of Citizens UK.

In post-event evaluation, this internal action was scored 8/10.

Below are pictures from Leaders Forum 2018.

 

Refugees Welcome MK thanks Dentons solicitors – 21.2.17

Kim Opszala of Dentons LLP UKMEA was formally thanked by members of the Refugees Welcome MK team, Marc Eisenstadt (pictured left) and Tim Norwood (right), for her and her colleagues’ pro bono work in producing legal documents for their constitution as a charitable incorporated organisation.

This marks the legal establishment of what began as a campaign within Citizens:mk, the alliance of diverse community groups that works for a thriving, inclusive and fairer Milton Keynes.

“I look forward to continuing to work with Refugees Welcome in the next phase of the charity’s development,” said Kim.

For further information about Refugees Welcome MK, visit www.rwmk.org.uk.  For Dentons, it’s www.dentons.com.

Standing Room Only To Welcome Refugees – 14.11.16

On Monday 14th November, more than 150 MK citizens packed into the Guildhall at the city centre church yesterday evening to formally welcome five Syrian refugee families who have arrived in MK this year.

Following a negotiation immediately before with the leaders of three main political parties at MK Council offices, Council Leader Peter Marland said:  “The Council is committed to increasing the number of refugee families welcomed to 50 if the Refugees Welcome campaign group will continue to help us find new private accommodation.  The more you can help, the more we will take.  MK will never turn its back on refugees.”

Campaign leader David Wolfson thanked MK Council for taking a lead on welcoming refugees:  “Again and again we are hearing from around the country that we are doing this well in MK…but there is more to do.”

One member of the campaign group, Marie Gracie, said:  “Council officer Jeremy Beake has been a star, supporting refugees in so many ways.  We’re very committed to helping him develop relationships with local landlords.”

One of the refugees, Assad, spoke through a translator of his thanks for all MK Council and the British Red Cross have done to welcome his family.  “I feel lucky to have been born again twice…first when I found my children alive in the rubble, and again when we arrived in MK.”

“MK is my new country,” said another.

Click here for longer article.