The University of Winchester opened its doors to refugee families for a family fun day on 23 June during World Refugee Week.
University student and staff and RRN volunteers welcomed refugee families, from young children to the elderly, and ran a range of activities, including crafts and sports games. Guests were treated to free cakes and snacks, all of which were donated to the event. RRN volunteers and local Jemma Wheeler also provided complimentary massage therapy. Huge efforts were made to ensure every guest felt welcome, with transport provided and translation services available for those who spoke English as a second language.
“The family fun day was another demonstration of the University’s active commitment to supporting refugees and enabling them to feel part of a welcoming community,” said Dr Terri Sandison, Special Projects Manager. “The University is also involved in a wider range of refugee-related work, including research, teaching, outreach and scholarships. Our collaboration with the Rural Refugee Network extends this in a very positive way, helping our staff and students to learn from refugees, not only in terms of their aspirations and needs, but also in terms of the contributions they are able to make to the Hampshire area both now and in future.”
The Rural Refugee Network is a South East based charity dedicated to sourcing accommodation and support services for Syrian refugees who are resettling in the area. They provide a number of services including befriending, transport, English language tuition, mentoring, advice and training using their network of trained volunteers. They also campaign on behalf of Syrian refugees and share best practice with other organisations with the aim of rescuing a greater number of refugees.
Through the partnership with RRN, the University offers a range of events and opportunities to refugees and will be running its annual residential program for asylum seeker children and young people later this year.
The University of Winchester is dedicated to widening participation among minority and disadvantaged groups, including refugees. In 2010, Winchester was one of the first two universities in the UK to offer a fee waiver scheme for students who were already living in the UK, but seeking asylum or humanitarian protection. The University’s Sanctuary Award waives tuition fees and offers a bursary of £3,000 a year to support the costs of study for up to five new students each year. Since 2010, 18 students from 11 countries have received the awards, including three who progressed to the University from local authority care.