Citizens and Groups eager to offer practical help to welcome refugees in Milton Keynes
The Refugees Welcome campaigning team, supported by Citizens MK, met with local groups and individual citizens at a Call to Action event on Wednesday 11th November, kindly hosted by the Church of Christ the Cornerstone in Central Milton Keynes.
The event had a very impressive turnout – with representatives from numerous community groups, organisations and businesses across the town as well as a number of individual citizens, interested in getting involved in the campaign.
“The event showed Milton Keynes at its best – coming together to help those in need”, said Jacqueline Eustace of the Campaign Organising Committee.
The purpose of the meeting was to present the Refugees Welcome Campaign Goals, illustrate the various ways for groups, businesses and individuals to support the campaign, and to build up the already existing Directory of people and services in Milton Keynes prepared to give practical help when refugee families arrive in the city.
A very special part of the event was the emotional testimony from Ruth Desale, who gave an account of her horrendous and unforgettable experience as a refugee – journey for a better life – from Eritrea to England.
The audience applauded Jeremy Beake’s statement, made on behalf of Milton Keynes Council, pledging to welcome and resettle at least 80 refugees. This follows a positive response from a number of estate letting agents and landlords who have been written to by the Campaign Organising Committee with a request to let their properties to Syrian refugees at affordable rates as part of this city-wide resettlement action.
John Cornwall, a Christian from Buckingham and a dedicated human rights activist, recalled an encouraging and personal example of how local communities in Buckinghamshire have in the past welcomed and helped to resettle a refugee family from Uganda, illustrating a joint effort from individual people, the churches and the local council that made this happen. This was back in 1972 when tens of thousands of Asian Ugandans were expelled from their country.
“If we could do that then, you can do much more now”, said John.
The event’s structure created the opportunity for the attendees to interact with each other through 1-2-1 discussions and focus groups designed to explore and challenge each of the 9 goals of the campaign.
These have resulted with an overwhelming number of ideas, practical offers of help and contact details – for the Campaign Organising Committee to take forward. The call to action has shown very clearly that tangible actions can be taken across many different areas – from within own our families and communities, to schools, businesses and even workplaces.
Carmel Schmid, who is chairing the Refugees Welcome campaigning group said:
“For me it felt like an overwhelming wave of enthusiasm: at the start of the evening I had felt anxious – who would come and what might they expect? Would we be able to harness the energy? Would we find a way of empowering people to take action? But as soon as we had heard the moving testimony first from Ruth as a refugee and then from John who found a home for a refugee family, I felt a buzz of energy. It was as if everyone saw the possibilities and launched into action, and frankly that has not stopped. What is being achieved now is tremendous. A big thank you to all who participated and offered service for our directory.”
The Refugees Welcome Campaign team are now busy following up on ideas and contact details shared at the event. If you were not able to join the meeting, but are keen to be part of the campaign, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The team meets on the second Wednesday of each month at a CMK location – please follow updates on the Citizens MK website and on social media (#mkrefugees).
To register your interest in providing accommodation for refugees, and for advice on such matters, contact Positive Action in Housing.