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Building a Culture of Welcome

Building a Culture of Welcome

Ripon Cathedral is a place of Sanctuary, where people have travelled for generations to find a space of calm.

It was also one of the community venues for the recent ‘Sights and Sounds’ event. Thanks to the efforts of many volunteers, the day was enjoyed by residents and Connecting Ripon charity members, sharing what they do and opportunities to get involved.  

The event was an opportunity to meet Ripon City of Sanctuary, whose goal is to continue Ripon’s long history as a place of welcome. 

In 2016, three exhausted families arrived in Ripon. They were Syrians who had fled the war. They had no idea what they were coming to, but they’d been chosen by the UK government and the United Nations to be resettled here, so they took their one chance of hope. 

What they found was a welcoming community. Specifically, they found Ripon City of Sanctuary (RCoS) waiting for them – a small charity which is one of 125 City of Sanctuary groups across the UK which welcome refugees. 

In the early days, when the culture shock was hardest, RCoS volunteers sat and listened to the families’ stories. They helped them find spices from home, to meet other Syrians, to explore their new city, to practise English. There was a lot of laughter besides the tears. 

Since then, the work of RCoS has grown significantly. Volunteers go into schools, helping children and staff to understand refugee issues and become nationally accredited Schools of Sanctuary. They match Ukrainians with hosts. They collect clothes for refugees with nothing, especially second-hand school uniform and new school shoes – because no school uniform means no school. Often these are children who’ve never even been in a school.

RCoS also launched a Community Sponsorship project, a government scheme whereby a local community raises the funds to resettle a refugee family here. The people of Ripon were so generous, they donated enough to bring two families. 

The group also campaigns nationally to help improve conditions for people traumatised by war, and by fleeing from that war. 

And throughout it all, the volunteers stay alongside the families, helping them build their confidence and independence. 

RCoS is currently recruiting for new volunteers. They need people to befriend the families, support the schools programme, and help keep the clothing collections going. They need someone who can book meeting rooms for events, and to organise trips and visits for the families. They need a secretary to take minutes at committee meetings. 

There’s no need to know anything about refugees in advance – just to have a heart for them. Loads of support is available, but every role can be very independent and you can make it your own. A small number of roles will require a DBS check.

If you’d like to know more, please email to arrange a no-obligation initial chat. You can also visit to read about how the group are building a culture of welcome.