Reset empowers volunteers to welcome refugees into communities. It was set up in 2018 to coordinate with the growth of the Community Sponsorship movement across the UK and has since then embraced all forms of community-led welcome. For example, it includes any situation where volunteers or community groups welcome refugees into their homes and community. Tomasz Muszynski, community building development leader, explains that from a practical point of view Reset offers training, support, and advice for community sponsorship groups, and helps them build relationships with guests and support them navigate various challenges.
Tomasz explains, through COMET, he learnt that every country has its specificities and practices: welcoming refugees means something slightly different in each country, and every programme has its own characteristics. Flexibility is necessary to navigate through those differences and provide an effective contribution.
COMET is a space to exchange experiences with partners about specific topics. It is a fruitful dialogue of experiences, expertise and advice that all partners contribute. It is a community that elaborates the best practices through mutual shared practical knowledge.
In the COMET project, Reset’s role is to deliver training and workshops around community sponsorship in the different countries involved. Training can be addressed at volunteers or professionals supporting refugees, refugees living in communities, and community groups.
Before developing training sessions, Tomasz and his colleagues meet with every partner to learn about their approach and what would be more useful for them, they identify some of the key themes to address, and how to use the best resources within Reset.
A recurring theme addressed by recipients of training is the balance between being supportive and yet not disempowering their guests. For example, how can we support someone and how do we prepare them for independent life knowing that our contribution will end. It is a conflict between being welcoming but also planning for a future where people are independent.
Another key question, for example, is how to build a relationship with a refugee in the initial weeks of meeting them and knowing, at the same time, that this support is temporary. An additional question is: how do we talk about it with the guest while making sure that we are not being unwelcoming?
An interesting and positive observation that Tomasz made is the change of perspective about the hostility towards immigrants: our work puts us in contact with so many people committed to helping refugees that it strongly works against the political narrative of closing borders.