More than 4 years on from the sad, public death of little Aylan Kurdi new images of misery for people driven to desperate measures to escape war or famine still arrive daily. The refugee crisis is still with us and will continue for so long as wars and climate change continue to make life intolerable for fellow humans. So Village of Sanctuary goes on, in our tiny way, trying to make life possible or tolerable for even just a few who, through no fault of their own, are adrift in the world. Another year has passed since my last report so it is time for an update on what we have been doing.

Making refugees welcome is our first objective. This year has seen resettled families who were homed nearby moved to more urban accommodation outside our area, so our family helpers have not been in so much demand. Friendships made, though, have been maintained, with largely good news of progress. Wealden is to adopt a buddying scheme developed successfully in Hastings, with volunteer roles clearly differentiated from those of local authorities; with induction and allocation against defined needs. Village of Sanctuary supports this and will be providing buddies as the need arises, as we are told it will. Sadly, the Refugee Support group in Seaford has had to close. We will do what we can to fill any gaps. We have already been delighted to be able to assist a young Syrian friend there with some funds to foster his artistic education.

Campaigning is our second role. We support campaigns led by larger organisations such as our “parent” City of Sanctuary and Refugee Tales, especially “Lift the Ban” to enable asylum seekers to work and Detention Action on ending indefinite detention. We have tried with no success to engage our MP in our work; but have received a more positive ear from our District Councillor. We hope that a mutual desire for partnership with the local authority over buddying may be fruitful. Isolated as we are, we try to maintain awareness and involvement in campaigns and the activities of other refugee-oriented organisations in our county and nationally via attending events selectively and use of social media.

Raising funds to help refugees in ways which engage the community enjoyably is our third and probably main activity. This year we began with “Conversations with Refugees” in which three asylum seekers and the head of a refugee charity came to the village to share their stories and experiences with a full village hall. Also early in the year we ran a fund-raising bar during a concert in the church. In the summer we met the excellent “Refugee Tales” walk along the South Downs at Charleston with an injection of cake to keep the walkers going and show our support. Finally, in November we held a 2-hour Pop-Up Shop for women’s clothing, which raised an amazing £1100+. Altogether this year we have disbursed some £2000 to refugee support. We continue to direct our donations to known, smaller hands-on charities and refugee families settled locally.

I would like to highlight the teamwork and community support which have made all this possible and always enjoyable; and thank everyone who has contributed throughout the year for their generosity. We are delighted to have Coralie Thomson join our committee, wearing an Uckfield hat. We now have a dedicated website which enables online donation and ticketing for events, to which we would like to draw attention: This allows money to be given at any time, rather than just at events. Keep an eye on our Facebook page too. Our next event is taking shape. The work goes on, always with some fun.

Tom Serpell, [@sanctuaryvillaj]
Chair, East Hoathly and Halland Village of Sanctuary