Working Together to Help Refugees Find out How to Travel around Suffolk

The East Suffolk Lines Community Rail Partnership is working in partnership with Greater Anglia, The Art Station, Saxmundham, and the Suffolk Coast & Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to help refugees and asylum seekers adapt to life in Suffolk.

The Art Station recently hosted two ‘Welcome Walks’ for asylum seekers and refugees who are now living in Ipswich – taking them on a day trip by train to find out about how to use public transport and where to explore further afield in the county.

Travelling on a Greater Anglia train from Ipswich, the group explored the Suffolk Coast & Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty at Saxmundham, led by the Art Station team, including ex-Spurs footballer, Ruel Fox, and artist, Anna Ilsley.

Photos courtesy of The Art Station

Clare Palmier, Director at The Art Station, said:

“Art Station really appreciates Greater Anglia donating free tickets to our group of participants. This enabled everyone to take part in the Art Station’s Welcome Walks and have a great experience with our team in our beautiful coastal landscape, within the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty area.

“Thanks to Volunteering Matters who facilitated our connection with a lovely group of asylum seekers being supported in Ipswich. Thanks also to Minsmere RSPB, as our second walk took place in the beautiful coastal bird reserve where the team there welcomed us with free tickets and lots of support.”

Shamaila Waddle, Project Manager – Adult Social Action, Volunteering Matters, said:

“Adult Social Action at Volunteering Matters, Ipswich, is extremely grateful to The Art Station and Greater Anglia to facilitate safe and supported ‘Welcome Walks’ for our asylum-seeking communities dispersed in hotels.

“The series of therapeutic coastal and nature walks offered a new and unique experience to many. The events have been extremely popular amongst the participants, especially women and children who are isolated in hotels and have limited means and resources to be out and about without any support.

“Participants shared that the initiative has had a very positive impact on their mental health and wellbeing and have greatly contributed towards integration with the local communities.

“With sincere gratitude, we are hopeful that Greater Anglia and partner organisations will continue to support our disadvantaged and vulnerable communities.”

Nick Collinson, chair of the Suffolk Coast & Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership said:

“We firmly believe that Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty should be accessible to everyone and we know the power and benefits that being outdoors amongst nature can have on people.

“Partnership working is what Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty do best, and this project is a great example of local organisations working together to support refugees and other vulnerable people in Suffolk and Essex.”

Aaron Taffera of the East Suffolk Lines Community Rail Partnership, said:

“We were delighted that everyone enjoyed the opportunity to find out more about the area where they live. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to have to flee your country and start again in an unknown place and I hope that our ongoing work will help them to feel more integrated and confident about exploring their new surroundings.”

“We are extremely grateful to Greater Anglia for supporting this event and working with us to bring rail to the heart of a community which can often feel quite isolated.”

Greater Anglia’s Customer and Community Engagement Manager, Alan Neville, said:

“We were pleased to support this vital work which is helping people to use public transport safely and with confidence, as well as connecting them to new opportunities.”