DAR – Darlington Assistance for Refugees is a registered charity (CIO) based in Darlington, County Durham. Our volunteers work alongside refugees and asylum seekers as they rebuild their lives in Darlington and the North East of England.
Being a refugee or asylum seeker means reaching a foreign land after fleeing one’s home in fear. It means leaving everything and everyone behind.
At DAR, we want to make sure that those men, women, and children who come to us not as a choice, but to save their lives, have the warm welcome they deserve.
We offer them a safe and friendly environment where they can get the support they need to rebuild their life in our country. We introduce them to our system and community as we would a dear friend who just moved from abroad. We respect their culture and heritage, and cherish the richness they bring into our lives.
Why Our Work Matters
Our work makes an enormous difference in many lives. Families feel supported as they rebuild their lives in their new communities. It is impossible to overestimate the importance of being recognised and feeling valued when starting again in a new place. We do not step in and do everything for new arrivals but provide the tools they need to become autonomous and develop a sense of agency.
Drop-ins are a vital source of practical help and advice as well as emotional support; there are lots of opportunities to get involved from making the tea to English language practice in small groups. Once a month, there is a shared lunch. Language skills are the key to social integration. We are keen to reduce the attainment gap between migrant children and other learners and one of the newer projects we would like your help to develop is promoting literacy skills through reading with younger children and helping older children with their homework.
When we could no longer just stand and watchEmbed from Getty Images
By the summer of 2015, the horrendous Syrian civil war had resulted in migrants fleeing the country and trying to make their way to safety.
It was the tragic death of a three year old boy called Alan Kurdi, whose body was filmed being carried from the sea on the Greek island of Kos, that
brought the plight of the Syrian refugees to greater prominence with western politicians and journalists.
Around this time Fran, who eventually became our chair, worked with others, locally, to raise the plight of the refugees with both our MP and the leader of Darlington Council. This resulted in a commitment from the Council to work with the Home Office to try and provide safe homes for Syrian refugees in Darlington.
To ensure that these families received a warm welcome when they reached Darlington, DAR was born.
Preparing to welcome the first families
Dealing with people who are going through such a life-altering experience requires a fair amount of preparation. We wanted to make sure that our actions were as good as our intentions, so we contacted the Regional Refugee Forum, who provided some cultural awareness training for our members. In the meanwhile, we worked alongside the Darlington Borough Council and other local organizations to identify some ways in which we could help.
We decided that we needed to help the refugees get settled in their new homes as swiftly as possible, so we established a short-term storage facility and collected donations of furnishings, home comforts, and other things such as toys for the children. This was meant to be an addition to the basic household goods supplied by the public authorities.
In addition, we arranged for Arabic speakers to be available to each family as they were taken to their new homes in the town. DAR volunteers made plans to show our new neighbours around town, and help them integrate into their new neighbourhoods and schools.
From the first arrivals to the present days
The first families arrived together in May 2016. We were deeply honoured to be an essential part – together with the Council – of their welcoming party.
Our DAR volunteers started to regularly visit the families in their homes, to help them settle in and befriend them. Many friendships that started during those days are still going strong.
To date, DAR has welcomed many other families of refugees and asylum seekers to Darlington. Some things have changed to adjust to new regulations and the need of the hour. The most important things, however, have not and will not ever change: our commitment to making those in need feel welcome and safe in our town, and in the North East as a whole.
Darlington is our town, but the North East is our home. We want refugees to receive the same warm welcome anywhere in our region.
DAR is working to create a network of local organisations that support each other in providing services, collecting and distributing donated goods, and create a community feeling that goes beyond the refugees’ new city or town.
If you want to connect with us, just drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org