Using her charitable fund with the community foundation, Jane Mactaggart has recently given £25,000 to local charities Asylum Welcome and Oxford City of Sanctuary, which provide a warm welcome to people from all over the world seeking refuge in our city.
OCF provides a matching service for Jane, who makes an annual donation and receives suggestions from OCF about charities that need funding, in line with her stated interests. As a result, she has funded many charities that she had never heard of before she started working with the community foundation, including those helping refugees but also many other groups with a focus on mental health.
Like all charities, Asylum Welcome struggles to fund its running costs – for example its annual rent of £33k per year. The unrestricted infrastructure grant we were able to make will provide incredibly valuable support towards this, enabling them to continue their work. In particular, the charity is supporting the first 20 Syrian families to arrive in Oxfordshire, with homes being found for them in Oxford city, Abingdon and Witney. Asylum Welcome have also hosted meetings of the Sudanese community in their offices; on their own initiative, these individuals collected food and copies of the Koran from the mosque and other places and took them to Campsfield to support vulnerable people. Asylum Welcome has recently premiered a film about the challenges facing asylum seekers and refugees as they arrive in Oxford, which can be viewed here.
Jane Mactaggart’s fund was also used to support Oxford City of Sanctuary, whose Host Oxford initiative helps local residents offer a room in their home to refugees or asylum seekers. Host Oxford pitched at The Funding Network in May 2016, where OCF was able to pledge funds to the cause on the donor’s behalf. Host Oxford’s presenters said: “Experience across Oxfordshire suggests that there is a genuine desire amongst many to support and welcome refugees, but many don’t know how to do this as the legislative context is so complicated and the problem seems so huge. Host Oxfords aims to tap into this sense of responsibility and goodwill, enabling and supporting people to make a real and practical difference. The scheme is a powerful way of spreading a culture of hospitality and support, and challenging the negative messages so prevalent in the media.”
Oxfordshire has recently been home to several local events to support refugees and raise awareness, such as Asylum Sounds, a world music festival in Witney in support of Asylum Welcome, and the Channel Project, and an exchange of voice messages between people in Oxford and refugees in Northern France, which took place in a phone booth on Cowley Road outside East Oxford Community Centre.
The movement of community foundations across Europe has been very active in working together to try and tackle the refugee crisis. In the UK, a special refugee fund has been set up to provide grants to those communities most affected, and just this week OCF’s Chief Executive Jayne Woodley is attending the 2016 Community Foundation Study Trip in Germany, convened by the European Community Foundation Initiative. Funded by the C.S. Mott Foundation, this week-long, intensive programme brings a group of around 30 community foundation practitioners and thinkers from all across Europe into one country, with this year’s trip focused largely on the response to the refugee crisis. Jayne hopes to return inspired with more ideas to bring the Oxfordshire community together to support those seeking sanctuary in our county.