BY TOBY PORTER
Peckham looks likely to house its own Syrian refugee family after its application was dubbed “the most thorough and comprehensive” ever seen by a leading charity.
But that may be because Sponsor Refugees founder and chief executive Tim Finch also lives in Peckham and helped give them the best chance of having their bid accepted.
Finch helps run 96 projects helping asylum-seeking families across England. So he knows what he is talking about.
But the idea to create a home for a refugee family came from a student, 19, who enlisted backers at Peckham Christmas Market but has since left the area to go to Manchester University.
The baton has been taken up by a collection of residents, who found a six-bedroom house and submitted their application last week.
Peckham Sponsors Refugees will meet with a Home Office representative in the next few weeks to seek pre-approval to rehome a refugee family fleeing the civil war and the invasion of ISIS into Syria.
The family, whose identity is not yet known, is expected to arrive in the community early next year.
Peckham Sponsors Refugees, which has been supported by about 100 locals, has worked for the past eight months to prepare for the family’s arrival and get all the necessary facilities in place.
The group has found a home for the family, raised funds to help support them when they arrive, and drawn up a safeguarding and resettlement plan.
They have a Arabic translator and researched school and support services available to help the family settle.
The Home Office will carry out an inspection of the plans and then identify a family – currently living in a refugee camp in Jordan or Lebanon – that has applied to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to be resettled. Gabriella D’Avino, chairwoman of Peckham Sponsors Refugees, said: “It’s now just a matter of months before we’ll be welcoming a Syrian family to the neighbourhood.
“The community has really come together – fundraising, writing applications and finding a house – to do what it can to provide a new home for a family caught up in a desperate situation.
“The people of Syria have endured more than six years of destruction and violence on a terrifying scale. Millions have fled the horrors.
“In the UK, we should be doing all we can to open our doors to the Syrian families who have been forced from their homes.
Peckham can be proud of its efforts to make our country a more welcoming place. “PSR has done wonderful work and I am glad to have met so many fantastic people living in Peckham.
Community Sponsorship can really make a great difference in the refugees’ lives, but can also have an invaluable effect on the local community.
“It has been wonderful to see how many kind people here who want to help.”
Some members of the Peckham sponsorship group have teamed up to form a befriending network to provide support for the family if they need it – whether that’s setting up a bank account or helping to find school places for children.
“The fundraising team will continue to host events over the next few months to raise money to support the family.”