Mayor’s Column 11 October 2018

Frome is a vibrant town with a resident population of about 28,000 people, of which probably fewer than 20 are homeless.  Imagine what might happen if we had to deal with an influx of 350,000 extra people who had fled from war zones, most unable to speak our language.  I doubt that it would be an easy transition – how would we cope? For many people this is not a hypothetical question, it’s a reality.  Turkey for example, currently hosts 3.2 million refugees, Lebanon shelters more than one million and Jordan is home to 660,000 according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.  Moreover, among the asylum seekers in the EU, around a third are minors, according to the European Commission.

This week I met with a group of community leaders from Peru, Somalia and Eritrea who came to hear more about the community projects that Edventure, the Town Council and others in the town are involved with.  The group, who come from UK based refugee communities themselves, work as volunteers to support their neighbourhoods and young people in particular.  The group visited Edventure, The Good Heart cafe, SHARE and the Community Fridge and would like to set up similar enterprises in their localities. These otherwise ordinary people give up their own time to share ideas, knowledge and skills to improve wellbeing in their communities.  Lajeel from Somalia, for example, is focussing on empowering women and has a group of young people who she mentors via WhatsApp.  George, from Eritrea, but now based in Ealing, mentors teenage refugees with mental health issues.

It was genuinely inspiring to hear the way these individuals are working to enable positive change in often very difficult circumstances.  How humbling that they came to Frome to see what we do, which by comparison must seem like a walk in the park.