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Helping resettled refugee families enjoy the outdoors

Resettled Syrian refugees enjoying outdoor activities at Redwood

In a joint initiative with Gloucestershire-based charity, Cheltenham Welcomes Refugees, the Trust hosted outdoor sessions for Syrian families who arrived in the UK through the Government’s Vulnerable Person Resettlement Scheme.

Prolonged months of COVID-related lockdown were particularly challenging for these families, so opportunities to connect with the outdoors in the summer proved to be invaluable.

During the first session, families enjoyed a picnic at Redwood on the Trust’s Slimbridge estate in Gloucestershire, which gained their trust and helped to build confidence.

This was followed by two further events for the teenagers. Firstly, at the Trust’s Fairford Workshop, where each person learned how to build a bird box which they took home to install locally. Returning to Redwood for the final session, they enjoyed team building activities in the outdoors and mastered some useful bushcraft skills.

This is exactly the type of work we like to undertake, as it helps children and their families in the community to get outdoors and in touch with nature.
Emily Crawley, Head of Learning at The Ernest Cook Trust

Cheltenham Welcomes Refugees is a small, volunteer-led charity, aiming to ensure refugee families and asylum seekers in Cheltenham feel welcomed and supported. Commenting on this joint initiative, Isabel Ruckelshauss from the charity, said,

The teenagers had a wonderful time. The past year was challenging for them, having to succeed at school in a foreign language and environment amidst the pandemic. The Ernest Cook Trust offered them a perfect opportunity to learn new skills, have fun and enjoy a much-needed break.

Feedback from the families was very positive, with great engagement, especially from the young people. One of the adults said it really increased their confidence in speaking English.

After the success of these initial sessions, the Trust hopes to fund and run similar programmes next summer.