BY TOBY PORTER
A Syrian refugee family has moved in a home away from the war in their homeland to a new life in South London after a year-long effort by residents.
The family of four – two boys, a girl and their mum – were given a home after thousands of pounds were raised and a house found in Herne Hill.
After months of living in refugee camps and tents, they were picked up – with almost no possessions – from the airport on Tuesday and taken to their new accommodation.
The house has been rented to Herne Hill Welcomes Refugees (HHWR) by a film director who lives locally, at a hugely reduced rent.
He had been looking for a way to help the plight of Syrian refugees when a HHWF leaflet plopped onto his doorstep – and he decided to rent it out to them for the next two years.
But he was just one of six people who offered their homes to rent to the refugee family.
One of HHWF’s backers is former actor in The Bill, Trudie Goodwin, who played Sgt Ackland in the ITV soap for 24 years.
She said: “It’s very exciting and hard to believe we’ve actually made it happen. It has all come together.
“The process has been the most amazing testimony to the generosity of our community.
We’ve had our application approved, we’ve won an award, we’ve pulled together brilliantly as a group and found fantastic support from the wider community.”
The Home Office, through its Community Sponsorship Scheme (CSC), will fund two translators for two weeks and befrienders who will make sure the family are settled in the next month.
HHWF, through an extended group of about 140 volunteers and supporters, raised a total of £15,000, which will fund the family for two years.
Ms Goodwin, born and raised in Lewisham, added: “For the past two weeks everybody has been working flat out in the house, which was unfurnished, to get everything ready for the family’s arrival – with the community donating everything from flowers to cheer up the house to an iron, books and toys for the children and traditional Middle Eastern food for the fridge.
Someone’s workplace donated a bed, and someone else’s a laptop – the list goes on and on. It looks fantastic.”
Lambeth council has increased the number of families it has offered to take from 25 to 28 – there are other groups in Peckham and Clapham.
The Herne Hill scheme was started by Rachel Griffiths, who works in the theatre, and former Fairtrade chief executive Harriet Lamb.
They staged an open meeting for the neighbourhood in St Xavier’s Church, Herne Hill Road, in October 2017 and 50 people turned up.