“If such a place had been available to me when I first arrived in the UK, it would have seemed like heaven, as I felt so lost and lonely.” (One of the mothers, who is now a Saturday Club helper)
In 2017 Newman Catholic College in Brent approached Caritas Westminster for a grant to help them set up the Syria Summer Camp, which ran over four weeks during the summer holidays. Each day an average of 80 children from refugee families took part in different learning, fun, creative and therapeutic activities, led by volunteers, mostly from the local community. Meanwhile, each Wednesday specially tailored activities were provided for mothers, with 20-30 taking part. The Camp’s aim was to help the children – especially recent arrivals – to integrate and settle, and to prepare for attending their new schools. These include Newman Catholic College, which is a Refugee Welcome School an accreditation scheme to recognise schools that have made a commitment to welcome refugees in their institution and community, educate all their pupils and staff about the importance of refugee protection over the course of a year, and participate in campaigns to improve the lives of refugees in the UK.
During November the school also ran Syria Saturday Club, for families.
Amanda Wooster, the teacher who started and runs the project, says
“Our aim is to help children integrate and to engage the family in playing and learning together, as these are skills and experiences they haven’t always had access to. I am really delighted that whole families have also come to the Club – this was one of my aspirations for Syria Summer Camp’
Caritas Westminster has agreed to continue supporting this initiative, which is in line with Pope Francis’ call to the whole Church to welcome and support all those fleeing war and persecution. As part of this support the Caritas Development Worker for Brent, Sr Silvana Dallanegra is now part of the monitoring group for Syria Summer Camp 2018.