We believe in ‘with’.
This word is important to us for a number of reasons. It shows that, as an organisation, we aim to walk alongside others in a way that cares for and empowers them. This ‘Good Samaritan’ motivation stems from our desire to ‘Welcome the stranger…and treat them as one of your own’ (Leviticus 19, verse 34) and to ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ (Matthew 22, verse 39).
The emphasis on walking ‘with’ people can be traced all the way back to our founding. Around 1998, a number of language school teachers began to visit and befriend a group of asylum seekers from Kosovo and Afghanistan who had recently arrived in Bournemouth. Weekly meetings at the YMCA playing volleyball (we still play there by the way) developed friendships over time to the point where the Local Authorities responsible for them asked for ICN’s help in providing support and accommodation. ICN was born, although at that time the office was a gym bag containing shoes for volleyball and a mobile phone!
Quickly it became clear that there were a considerable number of refugees locally, not just from Kosovo and Afghanistan, but also from Iraq and Iran, as well as a small number of other nationalities. ICN began to rent accommodation, typically in the private market, placing groups of people from the same background in a house, giving advice and support on accessing benefits and employment.
In 2002, Local Authorities began asking ICN to provide a similar service for separated children seeking asylum. Shortly after, in April 2003, ICN formally incorporated as a charity and a limited company. We moved into our current offices at 200 Holdenhurst Road ten years ago. This move enabled a widening of service provision, including English teaching (2003), immigration advice (2004), work with local women and families including homework clubs (2013), and Syrian families under the government’s resettlement scheme (2016). We also organise social events and holidays away.
While refugees and those seeking asylum are the focus of our work, the same kind of assistance is needed by and offered to other vulnerable migrants. We continue to support refugees, asylum seekers and vulnerable migrants from many countries. Locally, the largest refugee communities are those from Iran, Syria, Iraq, Turkey, Afghanistan, Tibet and Zimbabwe. The majority of our referrals come by word-of-mouth, as well as from local organisations and agencies.
Befriending continues to be at the heart of our service delivery. ICN now works with hundreds of individuals and families helping them to rebuild their lives, walking supportively with them on the journey towards becoming settled, healthy, hopeful and integrated members of the local community – or, where safe and appropriate, assisting people to return home. With prayerfulness, we seek to love and respect others with the love and grace God has shown to us.