Since Autumn 2017, we have been setting up a project in which people from Hastings, St Leonards, Bexhill and Wealden are invited to offer help of various kinds to the Syrian families entering our community through the Syrian Resettlement Project. Rossana Leal, our founder has a vision for how this can work to establish a real culture of welcome and hospitality towards our new fellow-citizens from her own experience many years ago. Rossana was also a refugee child who had to leave her home and find sanctuary in a new place and a new culture thousands of miles away. Here is her Buddy Story.

The Buddy Project is taking shape and growing every day. Starting in Hastings in 2017, we branched out in the Bexhill area in early 2019 and as of May 2019 we are now active in Wealdon as well! Volunteers have been carrying out ad hoc buddying activities with the newly arriving Syrian families, and in doing so, forming close and friendly relationships.

The refugees usually arrive direct from refugee camps and arrive here with nothing. The Buddies help to prepare a new home for them and provide a warm welcome that will help them start a new life in a peaceful country safe from fear, bombs and loss.

We work closely with the Local Authorities who deliver the Syrian Vulnerable People Resettlement Project in East Sussex. Full-time, paid case officers deal with all education, health, housing, financial and other official matters. The adult refugees normally attend English classes five mornings a week and the children go to local schools.

Buddies are there for all the everyday activities that any family starting a new life in a new country might need help with. We have been doing all sorts of activities!

  • Visiting the families
  • Getting to know their area, walks, visits to cafes, introduction to locals
  • Practising conversational English
  • Accompanying people to the dentist, doctor etc.
  • Driving people to appointments
  • Helping with filling in forms
  • Going to the gym or a mother and toddler club with them
  • Repairing things
  • Bicycle maintenance
  • Showing them how and where to use public transport
  • Signposting people to local services
  • Pumpkin carving, quilt club, cookery groups, puppet making, art group
  • Inviting people go on social activities such as exhibitions and walks.
  • Inviting them for tea or dinner

We now have over 100 people involved in the Buddy Project across the County, with more people joining every week.

We have hosted a number of social gatherings bringing buddies and refugees together. These gatherings were originally held at people’s houses, but we have now far outgrown this! We have held our recent social events at the Kino Teatr in St Leonard’s, Ashburnham Place and Brighton University in Hastings. They are a great opportunity for buddies to socialise with each other and the newly arriving Syrian families.

Would you like to help refugee families settle into life in Hastings, Bexhill or Wealdon? We are looking for people who can spare from one to five hours a week (or more if you like!). We aim to allocate at least two buddies to each family, and they are supported all the way by mentoring coordinators. Every buddy has to provide a Character Reference and be DBS checked, and they then start by shadowing another buddy. Arabic speaking is not essential. All Buddies will take part in an induction and provide feedback to the Project Founder and Buddy Coordinator, Rossana Leal.

To register as a Buddy please visit our Volunteer Page