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 November 2018

November 2018

As those of you who have been into the Harbour this summer will know,  we’ve been having a really busy time with new visitors who are coming to us from many different parts of the world. We currently have around 450 visitors registered with us and 77 new arrivals between July and September. We have seen a shift in the mix of new arrivals, with more families, women and children then we have previously supported. A change in visitor mix brings a change in visitor needs so, for example, we have had more to do recently in terms of school admissions and a busier sewing class.

It’s great that we’ve been able to accommodate these increases through more volunteer hours and class attendance – on one day in August we recorded 101 visitors in our Drop-In! A massive thank you to all of our amazing volunteers who have rolled with the hurly-burly of the summer months, and emerged still smiling and ready to tackle another day.

Some of you have asked for more information about what’s going on the wider world of asylum and refugee issues. Rather than try to provide a synopsis of world events, I thought it might be helpful if I shared with you the links and sources that I find most useful:

The Refugee Council published lots of up to date statistics, myth busting and reports.

The Migration Observatory published lots of reports and statistics on current topics (such as Windrush:  skilled and unskilled EU worker post Brexit).

Asylum Support Appeals Project (ASAP) publishes a quarterly bulletin and has lots of useful resources.

And of course lots of immigration facts, figures and policy documents on the Home Office website.

Claire Garrett – CEO The Harbour Project

18 years of supporting asylum seekers and refugees in Swindon

In the form of a global tea party we celebrated The Harbour Project’s 18th year supporting asylum seekers and refugees in Swindon.

In true Harbour style the visitors, volunteers and staff rallied together to create a very special event, including traditional tea and dishes from around the world, speeches from founders, trustees and the dept mayor, a quiz and birthday cake, singing and all!

We welcomed The Harbour family including founders and visitors from 18 years previous and learnt how the idea of a few kind hearted volunteers in the midst of the Kosovo crisis has evolved to be The Harbour Project today, supporting over 400 asylum seekers and refugees in Swindon.

Thank you for all that attended, contributed and for your involvement over the years. We are all humbled by the special relationships surrounding the project.


Wiltshire Community Pride Award Winners

Congratulations Faisal Nawaf, Visitor Volunteer, winner of the Volunteer Award and David Rowlands, Harbours Chair of Trustees who achieved the lifetime achievement award for his longstanding commitment to The Harbour Project. We wouldn’t be able to operate without extraordinary people like you both.

CEO Claire Garrett said on Davids award: “The project has been around for 18 years and he’s been with us for 16 – it’s grown from three visitors a day to hundreds each week.

“It is his leadership and straightforwardness that has got us through this.

“He’s a very practical, hands-on chair of trustees and all the visitors love him.

Young “Harbour Ambassadors” 

While others might have been relaxing after exams, Anna, Jasia, Vanessa and Wendy, final year students from St Joseph’s Catholic College, worked with us for week at the end of June.

The week was planned jointly with College Assistant Principal Adrian Stoten and overseen by Project Manager Nan Bains, Trustee/Volunteer Monica Potter and the Drop-In Staff. It began with some ‘theory’ about the UK asylum process and issues facing those seeking help in Swindon, before the students observed Drop-In sessions and English and Art classes. They were then tasked with producing a map of Swindon to help new arrivals – in Arabic, Farsi and Kurdish Sorani. Working as a team they checked with Visitors about what would be useful in such a map and the accuracy of translations they found. The students also produced directions to the railway station, again in the three languages.

VIP visits

Unless you happen to be in the Drop-In when they arrive, you may be unaware that we frequently receive visits from local dignitaries and leaders who are keen to find out more about what we do, and who are, of course, in positions to advocate for us or point us to valuable contacts or opportunities.

In three separate visits over the summer, we were pleased to welcome Molly Scott Cato, Green MEP for the South West, The High Sheriff of Wiltshire, Nicky Alberry and Susi Kemp – Leader of Swindon Borough Council.

Intensive English

The name says it all: 5 Days a week for 6 weeks is INTENSIVE. That is what 10 of our Visitors piloted over the summer as we extended our range of English tuition. This was possible thanks to funding and support from a Santander Community Grant.  In August the ‘graduation’ ceremony engaged members across the local community including deputy mayor of Swindon, Cllr Kevin Parry, who made the presentations, and the Director of Business West Swindon and Wiltshire, Ian Larrard.ions to advocate for us or point us to valuable contacts or opportunities.

In three separate visits over the summer, we were pleased to welcome Molly Scott Cato, Green MEP for the South West, The High Sheriff of Wiltshire, Nicky Alberry and Susi Kemp – Leader of Swindon Borough Council.

Thank You Mr Mayor

We are very grateful for the practical support and encouragement we continue to receive from Councillor Junab Ali (you will recall we are one of his three Mayoral Charities 2018-19). Among these interactions have been: a fundraising curry night in June; the Mayor’s attendance at the presentation of a new football kit for our players (generously donated by a Lalbagh restaurant), and at the ‘graduation’ of Visitors after their Intensive English course in August; accompanying Swindon Borough Council’s Chief Executive on a visit to the Harbour in September; and raising money for us through sponsored running in this year’s Swindon Half Marathon. Photo credit: Thomas Kelsey

Out and about 

Thanks to The People Health Trust, summer events included two trips to Barry Island, enjoyed by a total of almost 100 of the Harbour family!

We also had the privilege of being invited to Peoples Health Trust tea party to celebrate £100 million being raised through The Health Lottery. An inspiring day meeting other community groups and supporters and great to hear more of how their grants help Harbour and thousands of other small charities to reduce social isolation, improve health and increase self esteem.

Harbour On Tour; led by volunteer, minibus driver and tour leader extraordinaire Paul, the visitors have been off to local tourist attractions including: Bowood House, Hillend in Oxford and Millets Farm! This is currently funded by Yorkshire Building Society and Paul is planning regular trips.

Fundraising in all shapes and sizes

How lucky are we to have such fantastic supporters!

In September Harbour Ceilidh at Lower Shaw farm in September raised £616 and was a fun evening held by all, Lower Shaw Farm loved it so much they want to host twice a year so keep an eye out for more barn dance updates!

Omer Homer ran the Half Marathon in just 1:22:49 making him the 25th male and in the top 1% of runners! What an achievement. He raised £905 for Harbour’s destitution fund, supporting asylum seekers and refugees that are not receiving any monetary support due to matters out of their control.

In October we supported asylum seeker Evan to crowdfund for his access to University course, within just over a week £1695 was donated which covers his course and an extra £195 to use for course materials! He is now thriving and has achieved a distinction in his last 2 Maths papers and is applying to universities to Study Electrical Engineering at Degree level.

In the community there has been bracelet making, cake baking, church and funeral collections and monetary/item donations. We thank you for all your continuous efforts.

We don’t know where we would be without the regular donations from long standing supporters. We recoeve over £800 a month in direct debits!

Don’t forget old fashioned ‘word of mouth’ 

You never know where ‘just talking’ may lead. A family in Cheltenham regularly supports The Harbour Project, where by chance they happen to know several Volunteers, past and present. Naturally, they talk about our work to their family, friends and contacts in Cheltenham. Result: those people contribute too, for example, by fundraising for us. This summer, some parishioners at St Aidan and St Silas, a small urban community church in Cheltenham, raised £113.09 for us from a coffee morning.

This money is vital in helping us run the daily drop which includes tea, biscuits, some hot lunches, English, Math’s, Art, Cookery and Sewing classes…the list goes on! We provide a warm, safe space where asylum seekers and refugees can gain advice, advocacy, counselling and social integration in Swindon with cultures from around the world. They usually arrive with no friends or family on whom they can rely and this is where Harbour’s support can make all the difference.

Volunteer Survey

The Trustees meeting in September included the report of the Volunteer Survey, run by Trustee Kirsty Johnson. Thanks to all who participated. Staff and Trustees will be following up on this in the coming weeks and reporting back to Volunteers.


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

If you have anything you’d like to share in our next newsletter, please email



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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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