The Gateway Protection Refugees’ Community Forum was set up to bring together the crosssection of resettled refugees living in Sheffield, UK. Liberian, Congolese, Karen, Burmese, Somali and Iraqi refugees all contribute to the Forum to share their experiences, address common issues, find support, and build relationships across cultural divides. The Forum meets every month in facilities offered by a local community association. The forum has over 400 members and a management committee, which reflects the diverse demographic of the resettled refugee community in Sheffield. They have a formal constitution and a bank account and have developed an equal opportunities and child protection policy.
Sixteen community groups have been formed in Sheffield through the forum. They are established under three umbrella community organisations: the Karen Community Association (KCA), the Liberian Organization of Sheffield (LOS) and the Iraqi Community in Sheffield. One of these groups is the very successful Zeela women’s choir, made up of resettled Liberian refugees, who have performed around the UK at various events. Over the past four years the Forum has organised various Refugee Week celebratory events, including a very successful football tournament with refugee and local community teams, a five year anniversary event for the UK’s Resettlement Programme and a women’s international cooking event; including publishing a recipe book. The Forum officially supported Sheffield as the UK’s first City of Sanctuary. It produces regular newsletters and has been successful in a number of funding applications, and fundraising activities to support homeless people and Burma’s cyclone victims.
Funding is always a challenge for the forum; it relies on small community funders which are under pressure. Inevitably there are sometimes differences of opinion and disagreements as to how to move forward, given the diversity of the group. However, members of the forum work together to resolve such disagreements.