23 June 2023

Community Sponsorship: How does it make a difference?

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As part of Refugee Week, find out why The Salvation Army is involved in community sponsorship initiatives. 

There have never been more people in history seeking refuge around the world. The global movement of displaced people has significantly increased in recent years due to conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan and Ukraine. How will we, as the Church, choose to respond? 

Compassion is the central theme for Refugee Week (19 to 25 June). Across the UKI Territory, corps are showing that compassion by taking part in community sponsorship initiatives in support of displaced individuals and families, who have fled war, persecution and natural disasters. 

This includes Nawal and the Noor family in Stepney, who have been living in East London for the past two years, supported by a group of churches including The Salvation Army.  

Originally from Somalia, Nawal and the family had spent two decades moving from country to country, fleeing violence and conflict. Nawal had lived in Syria almost half her life when the fighting had meant she and her family had to escape.  

‘You feel hopeless and you can’t do anything about it, you just feel scared,’ she explains.  

The family applied to the UN for refugee status and were accepted on the community sponsorship scheme backed by the UK government.  

They arrived on 2 June 2021 and were ‘excited and confused’ by the welcome and support they received from the group of churches, led by Territorial Refugee Response Manager Ben Still.  

Nawal recalls: ‘We were surprised from the help we get. They helped us with the legal documents and even to apply for the GP. It was amazing, it was like getting to know a community. They helped us with everything.’ 

Nawal and her family now attend Stepney Corps, which has opened its arms to all refugees in the area by running a fortnightly ‘chatty café’ – an informal conversation group for anyone who wants to improve their English. Nawal is a regular attender. 

‘We have Iranian and Syrian and even Ukrainian,’ she enthuses. ‘We talk about our countries. There is a lot of people we meet there.’  

Members of Stepney Corps support the café by providing a listening ear to those who attend. Belinda Inglis explains that without a shared background and language, people find it difficult to connect with others. The chatty café, she says, allows for the sharing of dialogue between people from different cultures.  

Stepney’s café is one of many initiatives run by the Army in this territory to assist refugees. 

‘One of our core values in The Salvation Army is compassion,’ explains Ben. ‘One of the ways that works itself out is in our service of refugees. The Salvation Army is recognised by the Home Office as a lead sponsor and that means we have a number of groups under our umbrella who are supporting refugee families through community sponsorship.’ 

Having lived in London for two years now, the Noor family have become involved in community initiatives run through Stepney Corps. A gardening project has allowed for Nawal and her cousin, Mohamed, to help older people in the community to maintain their outdoor spaces, providing opportunities for conversation.  

‘It is a beautiful thing,’ says Nawal. ‘Sometimes they don’t have someone to visit and we help them.’  

The Salvation Army in Stepney has given Nawal and her family the confidence to rebuild their lives.  

‘I have a clear vision for my future now,’ she says. ‘It was like a fog when I was in Syria. I want to go to university and that makes me hopeful. I remember that I am blessed and I thank God.’ 

Discover more

'Our Home' is the theme of Refugee Week 2024 (17-23 June). Find resources to mark this significant time, including Refugee Sunday (23 June).

Supporting and resourcing local expressions of The Salvation Army to help people seeking sanctuary.

Refugee Response Co-ordinator Major Nick Coke shares how Salvationists and corps can put faith into action this Refugee Week.

The Salvation Army's International Positional Statement on Refugees and Asylum Seekers.