We're all Humans Here

• Written by Madina Knight

The Refugee Buddy Project Hastings, Rother & Weladen (TRBP) is celebrating universal humanity by welcoming and supporting newly arriving refugees to their UK town and using Loomio to organize their rapidly growing group.

When Rossana Leal fled Chile in the 1970s, her mum told her they were “headed for a land where giant men wear skirts”. Soon after, they arrived as refugees in Scotland to a chorus of bagpipers wearing kilts.

This warm reception was hugely impactful for the family who had just endured years of fear and uncertainty amongst political unrest. Now, years later, Rossana works to provide the same relief and support to refugees in her town.

TRBP pairs newly arriving refugees with a local “buddy” who helps them settle in and connect with the Hastings community. This is especially important as harmful misinformation about refugees is creating a less-welcoming environment in communities across the world.

“We are proud of the way we are resisting the increasingly hostile political environment here in the UK. By creating friendships and building communities we are showing that humanity is universal!”

So far the project has been very successful. Rossana Leal recently won an award from UNHCR and Migrants Organize for her work founding the project and she has big plans to increase their reach. To coordinate between their growing number of Buddies, admins, and refugee families, TRBP uses Loomio.

“Loomio is the main source of communication for our Buddies,” Rossana says, “They post when they visit ‘their’ families with an update of how they're doing and raising any concerns they may have. They also post about local events that might interest other families and Buddies.”

The (Hastings, Rother, and Wealden) council officers in charge of refugee family relocation also have access to TRBP Loomio groups so that they are able to see things they might otherwise not be aware of.

“The Council also puts out what we name ‘call-outs’, where they tell us – as leaders of the project – when they need assistance with specific events and then we disseminate that to the Buddies.”

Rossana explains that this keeps the lines of communication clear and simple. Loomio is also a crucial part of The Project’s decision-making process.

“We make decisions on Loomio every day. Decisions about when to meet up with families, when we are having events at our shop-front premises or when to have our next training session.”

And all of these decisions have helped make TRBP a glowing example for refugee programs across the UK. Last year, they were asked to develop the project into a new borough of East Sussex, and now cover three different boroughs Hastings, Rother, and Wealden.

“Our vision is to be the benchmark for refugee buddying projects in terms of how we work both with refugees and also how we work with local authorities.”

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