'The World on Our Doorstep' 

Interacting globally as we do, we cannot ignore the stories of those we share our world with. ‘The World on our Doorstep’ brought a refugee camp setting, as seen all over the world to leafy Horsforth. Inside the tents, two art exhibitions will help visitors encounter the moving stories of Syrian refugees’ journeys and the challenging stories of refugees’ experiences arriving and trying to settle in Leeds.

Penny Faux painted the aheart4refugees exhibition,telling the story of 7 Syrian refugees and their journeys from Syria. Joanna Vestey photographed the Spaces ofSanctuary exhibition which details refugees’ experiences in this city and why certain places that have become significant for them.

Living within refugee camp were a number of Horsforth residents living dependently on aid from others to identify for a short moment with refugees across the world.  The camp aims to

raise awareness of the challenges refugees face, provide opportunities for people to make a response and help us to learn from the experiences of refugees. 

There were lots of different ways to interact with The World on Our Doorstep. Each day guests came to lead conversations sharing their stories and experiences of being a refugee or asylum seeker or working to support them. 

Each of the conversations was well attended with 20 - 30 people gathering packed tightly into the meeting tent. We had some fascinating and very moving testimonies. Two refugees told their story of fleeing Syria, experience of being trapped in a Jordan refugee camp before getting on the resettlement program in the UK. They expressed both their gratitude to the way they they had been looked after and welcomed and how now they had found work and were 

settling a little. The following day four asylum seekers had told their story of their struggle to get Asylum, for one it took 17 years, always fearful of being deported. The stress made them unwell and caused them to loose their hair and she shared how one particular wig shop had become a space of sanctuary for her. A place where she could find the help to recover her dignity. 

Three other conversations, looked at those supporting refugees and asylum seekers. Migrant Yorkshire, explored the scenarios they find of unaccompanied minors, a fosterer shared her experiences and a social worker talked about the support needs of children who have have often experienced severe trauma and loss. We heard from Yorkshire Aid on the logistics of getting aid to the right people at the right time and Liz who had gone to work in the Jungle Calais camp for a week but stayed for 18 months.

She shared the almost unbearable conditions people were living in, the work to improve that 

 and explained the reason she discovered so many wanted to come to the UK was that they spoke the language and would have the bes

t chance of finding work.   The final conversation was led by Unity Action in Poverty and WYDAN who asked about how we could open our homes, churches, community centres to be used to offer a welcome to refugees.

There were lots of ways to explore the respond to the art and the stories with Art Workshops, Prayer Spaces and times of prayerThe prayer included  a candle lighting service for peace, a taize service in the refugee camp and a guided pilgrimage called the Lampedusa Cross at St Mary's church. All were powerful and moving times as we invited God to move in our world and to move us. 

After the Lampedusa cross, 17 year old Hamed told his story of fleeing religious persecution in Iran and also entertained attendees by playing his Violin beautifully.    

The week finished with an evening of Hospitality at St Margarets Church where Syrian refugees cooked a beautiful Syrian meal for 150 people who sat an ate together, refugees and local people enjoying table fellowship together sharing life. This was followed by stories and music performed by refugees and finally an act of solidarity as we raised hand together and offered our commitment to making Leeds a place of sanctuary for those who have been forced to flee their own homes and country. The event raised £600 through donations to the Leeds Refugee Fund. 

Looking into the future : We hope the event will have raised the profile of those projects working to support refugees and Asylum seekers.

A number from Horsforth are considering joining the City of Sanctuary work. 

Others have joined in a conversation club helping refugees and asylum seekers improve their English 

A conversation is being had regarding working with WYDAN to offer a winter shelter for destitute asylum seekers

The Farmers Market is considering whether it could host a stall with Refugee food.