On Saturday 1 October, more than 200 of the local community gathered in Warley Woods for Bearwood Action for Refugees’ Procession of Light. The torch-lit walk through the woods was organised in partnership with We Are Bearwood, the City of Sanctuary network and Near Neighbours to unite the community in spreading messages of hope, solidarity, friendship and welcome to refugees at home and abroad.
Meeting at The Fountain at 6pm, Leonie Hart from Bearwood Action for Refugees welcomed the community with the reminder:
Bearing torches to light their way, the procession culminated at The Pavilion where Brandhall Community Choir movingly sang and a number of speakers gave heartfelt accounts of the importance of welcome, friendship and hope within our own community. Rev’d Paul Hinton talked of welcome extending across faiths and cultures and drew on his own experience being welcomed during Eid and invited to share food with refugees living in Bearwood. Cllr Ann Jaron gave a heartfelt account of being the child of Polish refugees and how when you have very little, small acts of kindness are never forgotten. Teresa Clements from local charity Brushstrokes expressed how they had been quietly helping refugees in a corner of Smethwick and in 16 years had never before felt the support from the community so strongly. And Cllr Preet Kaur Gill spoke passionately about the plight of refugees with a message for the most vulnerable and the importance of coming together as a community.
The procession was a statement of solidarity with refugees by the community of Bearwood. Bearwood Action for Refugees asked the community present to make their own ‘pledges’ to “shine a light in the world’ and will be supporting the community to get involved in initiatives to help refugees living locally over the coming weeks and months.
Formed in Autumn 2015 in response to the refugee crisis, Bearwood Action for Refugees work with the local community to raise funds and awareness to help refugees across Europe and locally. Their initial appeal for donations to Calais last September saw 15 car loads of essential items going to refugees in need from the local Bearwood community and since then they have raised well over £3000 for refugees in transit. They are working with Brushstrokes Sandwell to deliver accredited training courses next month for local people who might want to get more involved in helping local refugees and asylum seekers.