Community foundations in Europe have been working together to react to the refugee crisis, with a pan-European collaboration and a new UK-based charitable fund established to support frontline care and longer-term integration into our communities.
The refugee crisis in Europe has been one of the most harrowing news stories of the year. Moved by images of desperate families making the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean to flee unimaginable situations in their own countries, many in the UK have called for greater compassion and a warmer welcome for refugees. In September a large crowd of residents gathered in Oxford under the banner “Refugees welcome”.
In response to the crisis, community foundations from across Europe have been discussing how they can collaborate to ease the plight of refugees. During the UK Community Foundations Conference in September, CEOs from community foundations across the UK and Europe held an impromptu brainstorming session to begin the collaboration. This was followed by a survey in which 20 community foundations from Belgium, Bulgaria, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain, Romania and the United Kingdom took part. As part of this process community foundations emphasised the importance of working in partnership with existing networks such as NGOs, volunteer groups and relief agencies, through the mobilisation of funding and support in kind. A number of the community foundations spoke about how they were already being used as a point of contact by new activists looking to volunteer in response to refugee needs.
As a result, the Global Fund for Community Foundations has organised an emergency meeting of European community foundations in Brussels in January 2016, with a view to both facilitating immediate relief work and promoting long-term integration and community solidarity.
In the UK, umbrella organisation UKCF has already convened several significant funding bodies together to establish a refugee support fund. The New Beginnings Fund is due to be launched in January with several hundred thousand pounds of pooled monies donated by Comic Relief, the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Barrow Cadbury Trust. The fund will help small local groups working to welcome refugees and asylum seekers into their communities, and it is hoped that the first grant decisions will be made in March 2016.
OCF is now looking for Oxfordshire-based philanthropists who might be willing to contribute to the New Beginnings Fund. Full information about the fund can be found here.
If you or your organisation is interested in contributing to the New Beginnings Fund, please contact OCF CEO Jayne Woodley at email@example.com.