Words by Molly Newberry, Community Network Developer for Eden Project Communities
I don’t think my partner or I would have considered ourselves activists when we set off to cycle from England to New Zealand for a refugee charity. That may sound strange but it genuinely wasn’t our initial agenda. Our main aims at the beginning of the trip were to explore the world in an intimate, earth-friendly way, becoming less naïve about humankind and to raise money and awareness for a cause that we felt deeply about.
From start to finish, it took us three years, through 22 countries and every weather condition you can imagine, over 20,000km actually peddled and a few short boat, plane and train journeys when needed. We raised over £13,000 for the incredible grassroots charity, Choose Love: Help Refugees. Our experiences on the road and volunteering for the charity have transformed the way we see ourselves, other human beings, global politics and planet earth.
We have become very passionate humanitarian activists through meeting people seeking refuge in another country for many different reasons, all valid, and experiencing the work that Choose Love do across many countries to provide displaced people with everything from lifesaving search and rescue boats to food and legal advice. Like other fantastic refugee organisations, they elevate the voices and visibility of refugees and galvanise public support for agile community organisations providing vital support to refugees along migration routes globally.
When moving to Bristol after the cycle trip, we sought out other local grass-roots organisations that were helping refugees and asylum seekers to access what they needed to settle into the city. I discovered Bristol Refugee Festival and Refugee Week. Bristol Refugee Festival supports and facilitates newly arrived and settled communities to come together in celebration of inclusion and diversity through a year-round programme of events, with an annual cross art-form Festival at its core.
This year, I have the exciting opportunity as part of my role at Eden Project Communities, to support Bristol Refugee Festival, during Refugee Week at the Queen Square event in Bristol on Sunday 25th June. It promises to be a joyful and exuberant gathering to share music, food, connections and artistic passions from all over the world.
Everyone can get involved with Refugee Week. As well as the many events and activities you can join, this year, we’re inviting you to bring people together where you live to ‘share a dish’. Food is a brilliant way to break down barriers, so encourage everyone to come to the table and let’s create communities where everyone is welcome.
It is so exciting to realise that as individuals or in small groups, we can make big change happen. It may start with something small. An idea. A simple act of kindness. Bringing people together to share a dish. But this will be a doorway into a greater awareness of how we choose to live our lives and the power that people have when working together.
Activities like this will be happening throughout June – the Month of Community – a whole month where good causes, charities and initiatives, including Refugee Week and The Big Lunch, come together to celebrate and share what’s great about our communities.
Millions of people take part each year, to say cheers to volunteers, connect with their neighbours, welcome refugees, support carers, and raise awareness of loneliness, because together we can shine a light on the amazing causes that make a positive difference to the places we live.
For me, Refugee Week has my heart, which has yours?
Find out more about how you can get involved here: https://www.edenprojectcommunities.com/month-of-community