Children on the Edge and Sanctuary in Chichester celebrate World Refugee Day with a special event in Chichester
On World Refugee Day (Monday 20th June) Children on the Edge and Sanctuary in Chichester joined together to host a special event celebrating community, mutual care and the human ability to heal and start again.
Chichester was recently named as the 'most generous' area in the country for housing Ukrainian refugees, according to the Home Office. The area has a strong track record of supporting refugees both within the city and in international crisis situations around the world.
Later in the evening Yulia Yanchar-Zahakailo, who leads a charity in Ukraine, spoke about her journey fleeing the country with her daughter earlier this year, and shared how she was welcomed in Chichester by her host family.
With a district-wide population of more than 121,000, Chichester is reported to have taken in the highest number of Ukrainian refugees per capita in the country through the Homes for Ukraine scheme. Yulia said that people hung out Ukrainian flags in solidarity, going on to describe how, “When we arrived people brought flowers, postcards, toys and even clothes for my Eva. It was really touching”.
Guests also heard from Romal Karukhail and Walid, former BBC journalist in Afghanistan, who were interviewed by Gemma Driver, of Sanctuary in Chichester, a local charity who support refugees and asylum seekers in the area.
Romal Karukhail, previously an asylum seeker, fled Afghanistan alone aged 13 to escape the Taliban, who he said were ‘trying to make me be a suicide bomber for them, and blow up myself in a foreign miltary base’.
Walid worked as a Digital journalist at BBC Afghanistan for ten years before the Taliban takeover in Kabul. Walid knew he had to leave the country to avoid being killed by the Taliban, so he fled with his family in August 2021 leaving his house with nothing but nappies and a few clothes for his children.
At the end of the evening Esther Smitheram from Children on the Edge spoke about the many ways that people can get involved and support Children on the Edge and Sanctuary in Chichester, from making a donation and keeping in touch to volunteering.
She said “It was fantastic to partner with Sanctuary in Chichester for this special event. We are incredibly grateful to all our guests who kindly shared such personal stories with us on World Refugee Day and it was encouraging to see so many local people share the experience with us. Children on the Edge is grateful for the wonderful support we receive locally from individuals, businesses and schools for our work supporting refugee children on the border areas of Ukraine, Syria, Myanmar and the Democratic Republic of Congo.”
Gemma Driver, of Sanctuary in Chichester said:
“It was a real honour and very moving to hear our refugee friends tell their difficult stories, and we were delighted that so many people wanted to join us. Sadly, we know a lot of refugees and asylum seekers in our area from all over the world, who have lived through truly harrowing experiences. Sanctuary in Chichester supports them to build their new lives here so they can begin to heal from their trauma. This wouldn’t be possible without all our supporters, donors and our large team of dedicated volunteers, so thank you all.”
There was fantastic feedback from guests who attended the event, Chichester resident Chaloner Chute said: “What an extraordinary event, well done everyone for organising it all. It was a very uplifting, powerful, emotional and celebratory evening. I am so glad I came.”
Chichester District Councillor, Adrian Moss also attended the event and said:
“It was a privilege to attend the event hosted by Children on the Edge and Sanctuary, who both do such a brilliant job. It was a great opportunity for all of us concerned about refugees from around the world to come together on World Refugee Day and hear first-hand from arrivals about their challenging journeys and how their lives are now improving in Chichester. Listening first hand about what is happening today in Ukraine and Afghanistan was a compelling and very disturbing reminder to us living in the Chichester area.
We are very fortunate to have so many dedicated and committed people investing their time and energy to support refugees here and abroad”.