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September 2020

Community sponsorship – building on the experience of others

Sidmouth Companions was established in 2018 within the Church of the Most Precious Blood in Sidmouth, under the lead sponsorship of Caritas Plymouth. Initially a small group of volunteers from the church, the Companions’ membership soon spread across the community and we are now a diverse group from multiple backgrounds and beliefs.

Putting together our initial application, we obviously benefitted from the support and advice given by Charis & Reset. However, having a mentor, Anna Roderick of ABIDE, (who welcomed a family in 2017) was invaluable in helping us to complete our application and gain Home Office approval in March 2020.

Then of course everything was tossed up into the air by Covid 19. We quickly realised that the commitments we had made in our application would need some rethinking in order to be able to deliver our promises to our family, assuming that the restrictions surrounding the pandemic were likely to be the ‘new normal’ at least initially.

With resettlements paused, we had time to take a bit of a step back and review how we would work going forward. Lisa at Charis immediately responded to our plea for a light touch mentoring from a group who had recently welcomed a family and so had to adapt to Lockdown at short notice. We knew that having those ‘coal face’ discussions with a group whose well laid plans had to be adapted on the run would help us to see through our knee jerk “tear it all up and start again”.

Several groups offered mentorship and we were overwhelmed by the generosity of support. We decided to work with the Falmouth and Penryn group as they seemed the closest match to our community. Their family had arrived in December 2019 and so Lockdown had interrupted the really early days of helping their family to settle into the community. Ellie Stacey who chairs this group is also extremely experienced having previously resettled families with the award winning Bude group.

We are taking our time to work through the challenges but our experience of talking to the Falmouth and Penryn group has been amazing. People are so happy to share their knowledge and the ups and downs. We have been reassured that the ‘new normal’ won’t mean tearing everything up. Adjustments can be relatively simple – and this is from live experience, not a paper assessment.

But most importantly we can now reassure our Companions that we can still do this. It won’t be quite the same, but we can point to real people, coping with making some changes to how they work, but still getting so much fulfilment from helping their family. We hope our family will arrive soon and that we will be able to ‘give back’ to help other groups as they start their own journeys down this amazing road.

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