Local communities have been offering a warm welcome to Afghan families who are currently staying in the bridging hotel in Wiltshire.
People from across the county have offered activities and resources to keep families busy and involved in their local communities.
Wiltshire Council has worked with local schools so school-aged children can attend classes and older students can go to college to gain qualifications. All school-aged children have been given a warm welcome into their local school communities.
There is also a team of staff from the council working closely with families to provide support including access to English language classes and other activities. The council’s Health Improvement Coaches are regularly joining families in the hotel to provide advice around health and wellbeing, and the importance of staying active.
Local groups are also providing facilities for football, swimming, cricket and craft activities from across the county.
As Christmas approaches young people will also be joining Wiltshire Council FUEL programmes which provide fun activities during school holidays and will be available in the run-up to Christmas. They are also invited to join the SPLASH programme run by Wiltshire Community First which hosts activities and other opportunities.
Across Wiltshire, communities are also offering support with the United Church in Warminster preparing shoeboxes containing gifts and everyday items for the families. The boxes have been picked up by Wiltshire Council to share with the families this Christmas.
Joan Jones, from the United Church, Warminster commented, “For many years we have packed shoeboxes to donate to the Foundation for Social Change and Inclusion which is an offshoot of the Trussell Trust, as part of their Christmas Shoebox Appeal. These go to vulnerable children and families in South East Europe and last week we sent off 102 boxes.
“We have also some years given things to local women’s refuges and similar places. This year we knew about the Afghan refugees who are in Wiltshire and thought it would be nice to send them something to show they are welcome, and hopefully bring some cheer in this festive time of year. For these boxes we also had £50 worth of donations from our local Waitrose too.
“Church members and friends are always very generous with several knitting and sewing hats, scarves, gloves, toys etc all year and others donating all manner of other items to go in the boxes. It is a year-long project for some of them.”
There have also been Festive Kindness Craft Bags and Boxes sent from Wiltshire Scrapstore which has been made possible after a £250 donation from faith groups in the county.
People wanting to offer to help can also donate to the Wiltshire Community Foundation Welcome Fund Appeal which has been set up to help refugees and asylum seekers build new lives in the county.
Cllr Richard Clewer, Leader of Wiltshire Council said, “We know our Afghan families have been through very difficult times to reach the UK. I hope when they look back on their first experiences of coming to this country they will fondly remember the warm welcome provided by people in Wiltshire.
“As their stay continues, our communities are coming forward and asking what practical things they can do to help. There have been some great offers of support and I want to say thank you to all those who are stepping up and providing so much.
“For those who want to help but are not sure how, you can donate to the Wiltshire Community Foundation Welcome Fund Appeal as the money raised will also help our Afghan families and other refugees who are with us in Wiltshire.”
Wiltshire Council is also asking private landlords who have affordable homes that are ready to let to get in touch by using the Wiltshire Council link detailing types of property available. The council will then keep these details and be in touch if they are needed.