Quote Icon

Harbour newsletter Autumn 2017

Friday, August 25th, 2017


Here’s a great story that shows how you are helping, through your support for The Harbour Project, to transform the lives of refuge seekers.

In recent years the TV news and daily papers have been full of stark images on migrants on beaches and the ‘headlines of hate’ would have you believe these displaced victims of war, poverty or famine are only coming here to live on benefits.

Those who have met Harbour’s visitors know they are just happy to have found safety, a warm welcome and the chance to start building a new life.

What better way to help them to replace painful memories with joyful ones, than to spend a day at the seaside? Bournemouth, with its long beach of golden sand, a magnificent pier, fish & chips, sunshine and ice cream was the destination for the coach from Harbour (+ one happy family from Syria in a people carrier). Our first trip was on 27th July, with a second trip taking place on 15th August. Sand between their toes, smiles on their faces; brilliant!

These trips, funded by The People’s Health Trust, enabled six of our volunteers to give nearly 100 visitors a day to remember forever. Some lovely responses were received from the refuge seekers who took part in this day on the beach, including these two heartwarming quotes:

“I enjoyed the beach, the company, the family environment. The joyful games we played and the amazing Nan who was so active and caring. I felt very positive afterwards towards living in the UK.”

“I enjoyed the visit a lot as it was my first time visiting there. I enjoyed swimming and played volley ball and I enjoyed making sand castles with my son. I feel more confident following this visit as I enjoyed it so much”.


Today on World Refugee Day ‘we reflect on the courage of those who fled and the compassion of those who welcome them‘.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ statement on 20 June 2017.

As you might expect, The Harbour Project got involved during Refugee Week, alongside Swindon City of Sanctuary, Amnesty and Voluntary Action Swindon. The 2017 theme was ‘Different pasts, shared future’.

The week started with a Great Get Together, bringing together people from all over Swindon, in memory of Jo Cox, MP. And guess what? There was lots of food! Although we would have gone anyway.

Internationally renowned artist Gil Mualem Doron visited Artsite’s Number Nine Gallery in Theatre Square on 21st June. His ‘New Union Flag’ was described as ‘an exciting interactive installation that challenges our perception of what it means to be ‘British’’. ‘A Shared Future’, an exhibition of beautiful paintings by local refuge seekers was also on display.

On Friday 23rd June we hosted an evening of film and performance, including the film Queens of Syria, which follows a group of Syrian Refugee women as they put on their own updated, Arabic version of Euripides’ ancient Greek play about refugees in Jordan.


Juliette, a student from Royal Wootton Bassett Academy, spent a week with us in July following a structured programme put together by two Trustees, Monica Potter and Claire Garrett. Here are Juliette’s thoughts on her time with us.

“I’ve really enjoyed my time at Harbour. I have learnt lots of new things and met lots of lovely people.

“I didn’t expect The Harbour Project to be as social; people can come in for help and classes and they can also come in to chat with others. It’s a really nice space for people to relax and there’s lots going on all the time!

“I’ve heard lots of stories over the week and learnt about people’s different and interesting cultures. I also got to see how Harbour is structured to make it work so well. When I asked what visitors would change, they all told me that they want it to be open more! Thank you to everyone making me feel so welcome and giving me this wonderful experience.”

Juliette’s knowledge and awareness of the UK asylum process increased hugely during her visits. Her discussions with staff, trustees and volunteers will be valuable in helping to develop engagement with young people. Thank you Juliette for sharing your interest, empathy and valuable skills with us this summer.


On 9th July, staff, volunteers and refuge seekers from The Harbour Project enjoyed an afternoon of food, music and family fun at Lower Shaw Farm, tucked away amongst the houses of West Swindon.

A beautiful blend of people from many different countries came together around a campfire to make the most of the wonderful Wiltshire weather and to build new international friendships. Our thanks go to Wiltshire Community Foundation for helping to make this day possible.


“If I could talk to the animals, grunt and squeak and squawk like the animals, and they could talk to me!” – that wasn’t in our school hymn book (or we might have paid more attention!).

On Sunday 16th July, we were welcomed by the Reverend Maria Shepherdson to Fyfield church, in the Avebury benefice, to their pet service! For those townies amongst you, this is in the middle of North Wiltshire’s most beautiful farmland (where the local cows’ milk goes into your favourite chocolate bars).

The regular congregation said it was so good to see the church bursting at the seams with the public, Harbour visitors and lots of children and animals! Thanks go to our volunteers Hannah and Helen for organising and getting us there. Now then, where did that llama go?


We’d like to thank the Swindon Catholic Deanery Justice & Peace Group for generously hosting their annual BBQ at Lydiard Park, on 1st July, for asylum seekers and refugees. This has become something of a tradition and is always eagerly anticipated by Harbour visitors.

Organisers Steve Aftelak and Robert and Liz Barrett commented:

“There were more than 60 there to enjoy the range of Halal beef burgers, frankfurters, chicken burgers and veggie alternatives.

“We took over two of the large sites at Lydiard Park picnic area which provided space not only for us all to sit and enjoy the food and each other’s company but also for the youngsters to play together. The weather was pleasant and it was good for us to see not only Harbour visitors from the past but newcomers to the Harbour as well.

“Thank you Harbour Team for giving us the opportunity to contribute in this way. The Barbeque operates well at so many different levels.”


Our regular Thursday evenings at Darkroom Espresso have been a big hit of caffeine and sugar with refuge seekers and friends meeting to chat, listen to music and play games – all of which is proving that friendship and love has no borders. These evenings are put together in close co-operation with Swindon City of Sanctuary.

On 13th July, for example, the Darkroom became a hot little corner of Spain as we were joined by Flame & Co who performed some captivating flamenco music – ole!



The Harbour Project, in conjunction with New College, will once again be hosting The Language Lounge every Tuesday evening, from 6.00 until 8.00, starting on 12th September.

This is a casual meeting including games and food, all geared towards helping refuge seekers to improve their English and to make new friends in a safe, supportive, group.


We may have a secret; we might be Harbouring the next Sir Mo Farah!

A team of volunteers and visitors from Harbour will be running the Swindon Half Marathon on 3rd September. You can join us at midday by The Jewel in the Crown to cheer them on and sponsor their efforts here; Thanks!


After the resounding success of The Harbour Project’s Quiz last year, we’re delighted to announce this year’s Quiz will be held on Saturday 7th October at St Joseph’s College, Swindon. Please enter your team early, preferably with members clever enough to defeat last year’s champions (Trustee David Rowlands’ Masterminds!).


Finally, this newsletter gives a glimpse into the lighter side of what we do. Of course, the real work goes on every day for our brilliant staff, Annie, Giles, Mindy, Nan and Yazmin, together with our team of amazing volunteers, supported by our terrific Trustees. All these people work tirelessly to help refuge seekers, from a wide range of countries and faiths, start to build a new life in the UK. Thanks to you too, for reading this and continuing to support us.