Reading Refugee Support Group AGM 2020
Tuesday 17th November | 7.00pm – 9.00pm | Online Event
On Tuesday 17th November, we held our Annual General Meeting 2020.
Due to the national Lockdown we held it virtually, and despite a few technical hiccups, it was a great success with a record attendance!
We were incredibly pleased to hear from some of our supporters including Deputy Mayor of Reading, Rachel Eden; Bishop of Reading, Olivia Graham; and High Sheriff of Berkshire, Mary Riall.
Other highlights included a powerful story from Ameer describing how we’ve supported his family, and a seamless live delivery of flowers to our outgoing Trustee Bet’s door during the meeting.
The whole meeting was recorded, and you can watch it back below:
AGM 2020 Agenda
Start – 7.00 pm
- Welcome – Mike Martin, Chair
Welcome – Cllr Rachel Eden, Deputy Mayor of Reading
- Apologies for Absence
Minutes of AGM held 6:30pm, Wed 2nd October 2019
Matters Arising from the Minutes
- Presentation of the Annual Report 2019-20
CEO Report – Nick Harborne, CEO
- Presentation of Accounts – Jon Linley, Treasurer
- Appointment of Auditors – Jon Linley, Treasurer
- Election of Trustees
- Any Other Business.
Close of formal business 7.45 pm
Mujahideen Ameer – Client Testimony
Olivia Graham, Bishop of Reading and RRSG Patron
Mary Riall, High Sheriff of Berkshire
Dr Mary Richardson – 25th Anniversary Impact Report
Mandeep Kaur Sira, Healthwatch – Report on health of Asylum Seekers in hotels in Reading
Close – 8.35pm
Bishop Olivia Graham’s Message
Unfortunately we were unable to hear Bishop Olivia during the AGM, but here is the talk she wanted to deliver:
“I am delighted to be with you this evening and to have the chance to meet so many wonderful and committed people. Reading the annual report has reinforced my conviction that RRSG is a vital and impressive organisation, making a real difference in the lives of vulnerable people.”
“Nick asked me to introduce myself, so that you know what you are getting in your new patron. I was so pleased to be asked, because refugee issues have been important to me for decades. I spent 13 years working in Africa before I was ordained. I worked in Djibouti, running a refugee education programme funded by UNHCR and implemented by WUS. I worked for Oxfam in Somalia where refugees from the Ogaden war lived in difficult conditions. In both places in addition to the rural displaced there were educated, urban refugees who were looking for resettlement in Canada, Australia, NZ, USA, Germany – wherever would take them. And a very very few made it to Britain. Because even back then, in the 1980s, we had an unhelpful hostile approach to asylum applications, an underfunded and seemingly uninterested bureaucracy, and didn’t make it easy. I spent a lot of time with refugees and asylum seekers in the Horn of Africa, and encountered Liberian and Sierra Leonian refugees when I was in Senegal. I heard at first hand many stories of courage, hope and human kindness as well as horror, fear and despair. And although in practical terms I couldn’t do much to help with their aspirations for a new life, for education, for training, I realised quickly the value of attentive listening.”
“Sympathetic listening is an incredibly powerful balm. When we feel listened to, and understood, we feel human again, connected, meaningful. Quite apart form the excellent practical, legal, everyday social and material support which is provided by RRSG, there is that quality of listening as though you care, because you care. And that is priceless.”
“The values of RRSG are ones which are deeply shared by people of faith. They are values which sit squarely within the Christian tradition, of which I am a public advocate, but are also held by all the other major faiths. The assumption that every human being is valuable and matters both to us as a society and to God. The importance of kindness, compassion and empathy. The primacy of love as the creative force behind the universe and the glue which holds us together. Love as a motivator and attractor. The Beatles weren’t that wrong when they say that it is all you need. It isn’t all, but it’s a very good start, and a solid basis for everything good that flows from it.”
“While I’ve got your ear, I’d just like to mention a couple of things which seem to me to be important.”
“Adherence to a religious faith and belonging to a religious community is very strongly correlated with good mental health. Refugees and asylum seekers are, as we know, at high risk of poor mental health. I wonder how proactive RRSG is in helping its clients to make good connections with their faith communities, and how aware the faith communities across Reading are of the good work you do and the signposting function.”
“A refugee or asylum seeker who is LGBTI+, especially if fear of persecution for their sexual orientation has been push factor in leaving the home country, carries an extra burden. I’m delighted to hear that RRSG has a connection with Reading Pride, and I’d just like to highlight that we have 4 LGBTI+ chaplains in Reading who are able to help individuals or their families to explore and navigate issues of sexual identity. Contact can be made through Rev Judith Ryder at the Minster.”
“And I would love to see greater connection between the refugee and asylum seeker communities and the Anglican churches in Reading. This may be in welcoming those from the Christian faith into their fellowship; it may be in raising money, or hosting events, or providing people who are interested in volunteering. But I would be happy to try to help make those connections.”
“Finally, thank you and God bless you for all the work you do, most wonderfully. I feel very privileged to be associated with it.”
Rev Olivia Graham Bishop of Reading. RRSG Patron