When the people of Elmbridge, England learnt that a Syrian family would be resettled in their community, they knew they wanted to help – so they set themselves the task of preparing the new home for their arrival.
“For a small community group, furnishing a family home is a big task if we attempt it alone!” said Becky, a volunteer with local community organisation Elmbridge CAN.
“We know there are many people in our local community who want to help refugees but just don’t know how. It seemed sensible to reach out via Facebook to organise a team effort around setting up refugee family homes – connecting not only the donors of the furniture, but also van drivers, handymen and volunteer cleaners!”
Christine is a member of the local church. She had heard through a friend that the family of refugees was moving to the town.
“My colleague and I at the church were spontaneous in our desire to help. When we learned that bed linen was required, we drove that same day to the nearest town and bought all the necessary duvets, pillows and linen.”
Small steps to make a big difference
With just a few days left until the family arrived and most of the donations received, one of the beds was still missing a mattress. Seeing an urgent call on her Facebook page, Jessica, a local resident, stepped in to help.
“I helped out because I believe it’s the right, human thing to do” she explained.
“So often we turn a blind eye to suffering, when really it’s quite simple to do small things that make a big difference to the lives of others.”
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.
— Margaret Mead
After all the donations had been received, a significant logistical issue remained – transporting them to the house. Spencer, from the local food bank, had a solution.
“We normally use the food bank van every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, to pick up donations and bring them to the food bank. When we were asked for help one weekend to furnish the house, we were of course happy to do so – it puts the van to good use, for a good cause as well.”
After three days of furniture assembly, cleaning, and other preparations, everything was finally ready. With a bit of a help from a few dedicated people, the house had been made into a home. Days later, a Syrian family arrived from Iraq, and are now settling into their new home in the knowledge that they are safe, welcome, and part of a community.
Becky, Jessica, Christine and Spencer had never met before hearing about the arrival of the family. They are just a few of the many volunteers who were united by a determination to help out.
Their story is a reminder that not only can communities help bring refugees to safety – but that refugees can help bring communities together.
We can only do this together
More than 65 million people around the world have been forced to flee their homes. That statistic can feel overwhelming.
Volunteering with a local organisation can put things into perspective. Behind the statistic, there are 65 million individuals, each with their own lives, stories and dreams, just like everyone else.
By working together, we can bring hope and humanity to a world that’s torn apart.
An action you can take right now
Join Ben & Jerry's and the International Rescue Committee and email your European representative. You can help vulnerable refugees reach safety. The more people who are Together for Refugees – the more likely it is that we can make this happen. Get involved and learn more here.