Real words

Here you can read some of our visitors’ stories, in their own words, as well as comments from both volunteers and supporters.

If you’d like one of our visitors or volunteers to give a talk or share their story, please get in touch.

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Abdul’s Story

A Journey to a Safer Place

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Harbour Newsletter July 2018


Lots of ‘People News’; a chance to help with Steps2Work, or be a Harbour Bikes ‘apprentice’; civic recognition; a look back at Refugee Week … and more.  

We wish all our supporters a ‘Happy and Relaxing Summer’.  Next issue: September 2018

Harbour’s first Chief Executive Officer
Harbour’s grown hugely: we offer a range of activities undreamt of just a few years ago. To manage this efficiently, and sustain it into the future, we have appointed a Chief Executive Officer. After a national recruitment process, Claire Garrett, Trustees since 2015, Vice-Chair since 2017 has been appointed.
“This is a massive privilege,” said Claire. “I will be remaining true to the great foundations that have allowed the Harbour to become the trusted organisation it is today. We will continue to put the needs of our Visitors at the heart of everything we do.”

Claire’s appointment has been enthusiastically received by Trustees, Staff, Volunteers and Visitors alike. As CEO, Claire will report to Chair of Trustees, David Rowlands. It’ll be a strong team!

This seems a good time to thank David heartily for the many years he has covered some of this role as well as his own work.

Office changes
After five years of energetic and dedicated service as our Administrator (now re-named Business Manager) Annie Vickers has left to work with Swindon City of Sanctuary. We are extremely grateful to Annie for all her hard work and wish her well in her new role.
Yazmin Taylor has stepped up as Business Manager from her role in the Drop-In and will remain our Lead for Social Media and Nicky Walker has joined the Drop In as the Coordinator.
Also, to help us manage our finances as tightly and cost-effectively as possible, we have outsourced some day-to-day work to professional bookkeeper Rachel Taylor. Welcome Rachel and Nicky!

Schoolwork in partnership with SCoS 
At the end of May, we hosted a constructive meeting, facilitated by Swindon Justice and Peace (J&P) Group, in response to interest in our work from a local primary school. The meeting included: Harbour Project Manager Nan Bains; Cristina Bennett, Volunteer Lead Swindon Schools of Sanctuary; local J&P members; and representatives of the school. It considered the complementary interests of the Harbour and SSoS, focusing on the latter’s existing networks, expertise and schools’ resources. Opportunities were identified for the school to engage initially through SSoS; with possible later links to the Harbour’s ‘work experience’ with older students.

Harbour Bikes                               
Behind the scenes, three people Richard, Cathy and Phil, have provided two hundred or so bikes for Harbour Visitors over the past couple of years. Amazing! and Thanks!

This has made a huge impact on the quality of life for the new owners. For example, it has helped asylum seekers housed on the edge of the town to get to The Harbour or to their scheduled meetings with Immigration Officials without spending all their daily support money on bus fares. For others it has brought new freedom to explore the town and to get to parks or places for leisure and socialising.  We must also thank Swindon-based Mitchell’s Cycles who are very supportive in helping with both bikes and spare parts.

Some donated bikes need restoration before they can be used safely. Phil and Richard do this for free, with the Harbour providing padlocks, lights, helmets etc when it can. It’s the same story with repairs, where Drop-in Manager Giles also lends a hand. It is Giles who helps ensure that distribution is as fair as possible, by keeping a list of requests and prioritising around need.

Most commonly, technical restoration involves new rubber inner tubes, brake and gear cables, brake rubbers, chains, rubber tyres, saddles, brake and gear handlebar mechanisms.  The most expensive and common requirements are new wheels, bottom mechanisms, de-railleurs and full pedal/gear mechanism, and front forks with handle bars.

We still have a waiting list for bikes, mainly for men, but also for women, teenagers and younger children. Could you help with a donation (bike or cash) or by working as an ‘apprentice’ alongside Phil at the Harbour?

Thanks to everyone who has already supported this scheme. Anyone who has been in the drop-in when someone is given a bike will know just how much happiness each bike brings!

Contact: Phil on Tel: 07468411659 and email:

Mayor’s charity status 

We are grateful and proud that the new Mayor of Swindon, Councillor Junab Ali, has chosen us as one of the ‘Mayor’s Charities’ for his year in office.

Councillor Ali represents Swindon Central Ward in which we are located; we look forward to strengthening our relationship and engaging with him during the year.

Meet the newest Trustee       
The Trustees appointed Basel Esleem as a Trustee with effect from May 2018. Basel has been a friend of The Harbour for many years. He served as a Volunteer in the Drop-In  (Aug 2014-Feb 2015) before his work responsibilities precluded this, but has kept in touch.

Originally from Syria, Basel now works as a customer care consultant at Nationwide Building Society. His particular interests are in Finance and Languages.

I look forward to working with board of trustees to serve Harbour Project Visitors and develop the services Harbour offers to help our Visitors to thrive in their new lives” 

“I started working in Harbour as a Volunteer in Aug 2014 where I met people from different countries and cultures, it is great place which reflects the diversity of Swindon town. In Harbour I discovered the real meaning of happiness, helping people and planting a smile on their face, it is a great feeling. Harbour is like a rose in a forest of concrete, it represents the hope of better tomorrow”  


We have more than 40 men and women in the Steps2Work program, and at all stages they benefit from all the support they can get.

Would you like to be a buddy or a mentor? Then contact us! There are so many opportunities to get involved – from Saturday morning at the allotment, to career  mentoring, or just simply sharing a cup of coffee and a chat once a month. It doesn’t take much to make a difference to a life.

We are currently seeking a mentor for Idris who is looking to study dentistry after a foundation year at university. We will also be looking for a two-week voluntary placement for him in a dental surgery. He has excellent grades from his high school and good English and excellent people skills. Please let us know if you could help

If you’re interested, please contact Bronwyn at, or on 0753 2808900 after July 16 and join the team.

Refugee Week 2018 – Well that was fun!

A thank you from Swindon City of Sanctuary.

Statistical background
If you are giving a talk or presentation about The Harbour, and haven’t already seen this site – you may find it an interesting source of statistics which provide a national backdrop to our work in Swindon.

Saying ‘Thank You’ to our Founders
As reported in our May Newsletter, we are compiling a brief ‘History of The Harbour’ to mark our 18th birthday.  Later this year, we hope to bring together some of the current Harbour Family with some of those who had the vision and courage to set up this work in 2000, so we can say ‘Thank You’ to them.

Two of those founders have already shared some of their reminiscences:
Stephanie Glennie recalls the early months: – “One person phoned me, to say that she didn’t have anything to donate, but would like to discuss.  I met her at her (brother’s) house.  She was a very experienced medical doctor, on 48 hours’ notice to go anywhere in the world to set up medical camps in emergencies.  At the end of our very interesting conversation, I asked ‘’ What is the most important thing you think we could do for these refugees in Swindon?’  She replied, ‘Provide a safe space’.   This statement stuck with me, I reported back to the small group of us that met in those days, and from that, things suddenly came together.”

And The Revd Guy Donegan-Cross, now in Yorkshire, emailed us to say: “What a joy to look at the website, watch the video, and see how far the vision has come – amazing! …. I do remember the urgent sense of need, the very small and basic hut we all met in, the sense of there being little infrastructure in the town to help asylum seekers, the way in which people from across the community were drawn together to help, and those early meetings trying to put the basics in place and employ our first coordinator. …  what I still recognise, apart from the name, is the logo, …  That symbol has become even more poignant as years have gone by and we have seen the tragedies in the Mediterranean.”

Breaking news …  New Patron
As we prepare this newsletter, we are delighted to announce that the Rt Hon Lord Wills, formerly Michael Wills MP has accepted an invitation to be our Patron.
We hope to feature an interview with him in our next issue.


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“When I joined Harbour as a volunteer, I did not know it would be like a family for me. Harbour is like an oasis in Swindon where people get different types of help from a great group of volunteers and staff. I will never forget all the sweet moments and nice people I met here. I love Harbour!”

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“At first I was confused because I was not sure how to speak to people, to make friends or how to go to places. The English and computer classes were very important. They helped me to know how to speak to people and to mix with others, so I became happier.”

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“Harbour Project is the place where I have got help, advice & love. I will never forget the loving moments I spent in Harbour. Thank  you so much.”

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John Adams OBE

Chair of Wiltshire Community Foundation

“There are so many negative and rather depressing stories in the media about asylum seekers, that it was encouraging to see the practical and positive ways you are supporting the young people, who are so far from their home countries and trying to make their way in the world as best they can.

We much admire your terrific leadership and commitment.

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Tom Godwin

HOPE not hate Coordinator for Wales

“I was brought up in Swindon, and the Harbour Project is without a doubt my favourite place. With visitors from over 50 countries, it provides a cultural heart for the town.

I am rejuvenated after every visit, and inspired by the kindness, hard work and hospitality of Harbour Team, and all its dedicated volunteers.

Thank you. Diolch yn fawr.”

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Tiffy Allen

National Co-ordinator for City of Sanctuary

“I travel all over Britain and Ireland visiting drop-ins and projects like the Harbour, but I have to say, the welcome, warmth, inclusiveness and love I feel here is up there with the best! Well done to everyone here for contributing to this great atmosphere and for making Swindon such an amazing place.”

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