21st Dec 2018

The Community Foundation champions local areas but many issues originate elsewhere. With North East England proud of its generosity and hospitality, local responses to the global migration crisis are an important feature of the Foundation’s work.

Asylum seekers and refugees everywhere face challenges, and those arriving in the North East are no different. They may be housed in poorer neighbourhoods where communities and services are already under pressure. They may face prejudice and hate crime because they are from a visible black, Asian or other ethnic minority background. And, no matter how keen to integrate, they may not have the knowledge and confidence to navigate their way through life here. But a range of local charities are working to offer a welcome, support skills development and ensure they become part of the local community.  

The anonymous couple who set up the Community Foundation’s Pea Green Boat Fund are focusing their philanthropy on making long-term commitments to organisations working with refugees and asylum seekers. Lack of basic English is one key barrier to integration. One group being supported is the Action Foundation, an award-winning charity based in Newcastle which offers a free language school. Funding is helping Action Foundation continue its volunteer-led English classes in the east end of Sunderland, with more than 400 people taking part. Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums, meanwhile, is being funded to work with local charities to recruit refugees and asylum seekers as volunteer guides. They will be trained to give tours in their native languages and in English for the benefit of fellow refugees. This will help new arrivals get a sense of the culture and heritage of their new home while providing the guides themselves with knowledge, experience and confidence.

The Community Foundation is also bringing together donors to ensure more help gets to organisations making a difference. The Walking With project in North Tyneside has a track record of people coming together on a largely voluntary basis to help people in their, including refugees and asylum seekers. A grant combining support from the Pea Green Boat Fund with the Squires Foundation and Daphne and Martin Cookson Funds at the Community Foundation is now supporting a full-time manager at Walking With to strengthen and extend its work. Ali Cookson who, with her sister Jan, established the Daphne and Martin Cookson Fund in memory of their parents, says: “We were inspired by the fact that, despite its limited resources, Walking With plays a key role in meeting people’s basic needs, supporting newcomers with their esteem and orientation, giving them knowledge of how to report hate crime, and improving physical and mental health.”

The Daphne and Martin Cookson Fund is also supporting the Regional Refugee Forum, a charity which brings together groups led by refugees supporting the settlement and integration of people in exile from across the world. The Forum plays a critical role in helping refugee communities to speak up for themselves and make a positive contribution to the wider community. So, it is also being supported by the Community Foundation from its unrestricted Vital Community Fund which focuses on tackling important priorities identified through its Vital Signs research.

Sadly, the global migration crisis does not appear to be coming to an end anytime soon. But neither does the Foundation’s commitment – nor that of its donors – to finding ways to help.  

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