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People who welcome is a blog series by talented local writer, Hannah Sharland. In this series, Hannah interviews people who have acted in ways which make our community a more welcoming place for all. Let Hannah’s evocative descriptions take you through the joys and challenges of making a difference.

Housing refugee families in Bournemouth

By Hannah Sharland- August 2019

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A packed public meeting was underway in Wimborne Minster one chill evening in 2016. The Baptist Minister, Robert Jones, stood at the front of the church and pitched an important question to his public congregation; “Can everybody who thinks it is a good idea to welcome refugees, put their hands up.” A forest of hands went up.

It was here, at this public meeting in the historic Minster, that the idea for an ethical investment partnership was conceived. Safe Haven Wessex LLP set out to purchase accommodation that could be leased to provide sanctuary for refugee families coming into the conurbation. It started out as a discussion between the Baptist Minister and the Chair of the Liberal Jewish Congregation for Wessex Gillian Dawson – two and a half years later, with approximately forty-two investors – their vision has been delivered.

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Southbourne Canoe Club

By Hannah Sharland- August 2019

Roiling sheets of pewter buffet the stoney shore, throwing brine and pebbles cascading onto the concrete groynes, half visible in the mist. The waves are causing an earth-shuddering clamour, which I can hear all the way from the visitor centre, some four or five metres away. It’s not a blustery day, but the beach on this side of the headland is affronted by these breeze-born behemoths no less.

Turning the corner into the Estuary, the sky is holding its breath – it’s suddenly like walking in space. Not a wisp stirs on the mouth, now a pool of liquid silver, rippling only where a Black-headed Gull skids its surface, or a Sandpiper brushes its beak along the silken edge. I start to skip back to BC and believe the world is flat again, the water is so achingly smooth and tranquil.

 

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Fostering asylum-seeking children

By Hannah Sharland- August 2019

Julie and the boy took it in turns to roll out and thin the slab of pastry dough. The rolling pin, with it’s worn wooden handles, had been her mother’s. And here in this moment, she was connected to her mother, while the teenager conjured fond memories of his mother, remembering her rolling out pastry to make sausage rolls as he was now doing in this safe home far away from her.

“Sausage rolls. I’m not sure how he got that across the language barrier,” Mike says grinning, making us all smile.

“I thought wow, this is incredible that in our kitchen, we’re teaching a boy to make pastry, which is connecting him to his mother,” says Julie, speaking about one of a series of profound moments she and her husband, Mike, had shared with the five asylum seeking boys they had welcomed into their home over the last two years. “He was happy, really happy.”

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