Why community is important now more than ever

Regional Comms Coordinator for the North East, Katie Bryson, explores why we chose to take a closer look at the power of community for the latest episode of the IMIX podcast, Un/Documented published today.

Local community group Tynemouth Together With Refugees 'March for Compassion'

Photo by Mark Husmann from Tynemouth Together With Refugees ‘March for Compassion’ 2023.

Given the current bleak political landscape of cruel asylum policy, homelessness, and austerity where traumatised people are dehumanised and scapegoated, it’s clear that we need to hold onto a sense of community that keeps us grounded and kind. 

As a child I was always told in times of crisis to look for the helpers, to look for those who choose to step in and provide support when disaster strikes. Even now it stops me from spiralling into a dark place and restores my faith in humanity. 

What I see now as an adult working in the refugee sector are a whole movement of committed helpers, opening their hearts and communities. In homes and neighbourhoods throughout the UK people who have recently arrived from traumatic places of conflict and persecution are being welcomed and hosted in amazing ways.  

It’s the village who have joined a Community Sponsorship project to welcome an entire family who have been stuck in a refugee camp for years. A project that not only requires a group to raise thousands of pounds, but also the tenacity to find and furnish a suitable home to rent for two years, school places for the children, language classes for the adults and get them oriented and settled into a totally new life that is a world away from everything they know. 

It’s the young couple who have opened their spare room to someone who had their asylum claim rejected, is destitute and would otherwise be sleeping rough. A roof over their head at a time when their life has fallen apart allows them to think straight about what happens next. 

It’s the group of retired women who love crafting and decide to take their skills and share them with the residents of a local hotel housing people seeking sanctuary. They get them out of their confined rooms and get them chatting and creating, giving them a chance to feel part of something. 

These stories of successful community integration, local welcome and hospitality can work powerfully to change negative migration narratives, and that’s what we’re exploring in the third episode of the IMIX podcast Un/Documented It Takes A Community. 

I had the pleasure of interviewing the amazing Khadeja about her experience of being the first family to be resettled from Syria to North Devon through the Pickwell Foundation’s Community Sponsorship programme. 

Before she arrived in the UK, Khadeja was very worried about learning the language and how the community would accept her, but it was a supportive experience and she soon felt like it was her home.  It wasn’t long before she paid it forwards and started helping another group to support other families being resettled with finding halal food, furniture, language classes and cultural opportunities.  

She now works with the Pickwell Foundation as a Community Sponsorship Ambassador and acts as a is a link between families and the community groups.    

Our fantastic presenters Ali and Eli share their own experiences of arriving in a new community, navigating a different culture and language and whether it’s possible to feel a sense of being “at home”. 

They also speak to Helen, a mum of three who set up at Hope at Home, a hosting charity that matches people with spare bedrooms with survivors of trafficking and modern slavery who need a temporary place to stay. She talks beautifully about why she felt propelled to open her home, the lives that have been changed and the people who have been welcomed. 

It’s a truly heart-warming episode and provides that well-needed dose of hope by celebrating all the amazing helpers out there working in our communities to create an atmosphere of welcome. 

Listen now to EPISODE THREE: It takes a community, on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Amazon Music.

IMIX’s podcast Un/Documented is where we tell the stories behind the headlines. Featuring the people, communities and change-makers so often written about in the news but rarely listened to. Un/Documented explores how storytelling can drive change and create a narrative of hope.  

Author Katie Bryson

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