Wycombe Refugee Partnership is our mission focus for October to December, and we will welcome Michael to speak at our morning services on Sunday 19th November. Please do come along and hear more about the work of this excellent local organisation.

Wycombe Refugee Partnership

Zahra is an Afghan journalist with ten years’ experience as a news presenter on TV and Radio, who was evacuated in August 2021 from Afghanistan with her two children. She moved from hotel accommodation in Watford, provided by the Home Office to a flat in central Wycombe with the collaboration between Buckinghamshire Council, Wycombe Refugee Partnership and a landlord who had deliberately invested in the property to assist refugees.

Her work now is as a reporter with the BBC Afghan service desk and we shall welcome her as our speaker at our WRP AGM on 25th November at Friends Meeting House, 25 London Road at 11.30 am.

We are grateful for the continuing support from Hughenden residents and see no sign of an end to the need as since the large influx from Syria we have received migrants from Afghanistan and Ukraine, besides six other countries. Last year we listed partnership with over 25 other organizations, helping over 100 beneficiaries. In August 2022 we received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary service.

By September 2023 we recorded support for 26 families with refugee status of whom 12 remain resident in Wycombe; also 26 asylum-seeking families of whom 9 are still here, in addition to a group of up to 6 single young men at a hostel. Delivering this support are about 80 volunteers and three part-time staff. There are 8 trustees, half of whom are from the local Asian community. A large part of our work is in teaching English in the home for those who cannot attend classes and guiding parents’ choices through our education system.

In our early years we supported those who had come as asylum-seekers and on receiving refugee status applied for family reunification but had no accommodation. Those living as asylum-seekers in our country are provided with basic housing and about £40 a week for each person by the Home Office. They are not allowed to work nor have recourse to public funds.

At the time of Covid lockdown we became aware of several families housed by the Home Office in Wycombe, who lost the support of friends whose incomes had dwindled. We were part of a local scheme responding to food poverty and continued issuing supermarket vouchers to the asylum-seekers. The school children were particularly disadvantaged, so we ensured that they had electronic devices to keep in touch with their classes. Opportunities for activities were made when restrictions eased so some now swim, play football, join martial arts courses or learn skateboarding.

Our continuing challenge is finding accommodation for refugees in the private rented sector. Four landlords have agreed to let at the benefits level rate, which makes it possible for our families to stay. Their bottom line is the same as WRP - they do not take a letting agent’s fee but provide mentoring and reassurance.

Michael Bowker

Wycombe Refugee Partnership became a registered charity in 2016 with the purpose of meeting the needs of refugees and asylum-seekers in the Wycombe area by providing access to advocacy, health, housing, employment and education.

Do contact us on the website: www.wycombe-refugees.org

or by email on: contactus@wycombe-refugees.org

Zahra’s Story

I am Zahra Shaheer, an Afghan female journalist and I worked as a journalist for almost 10 years in RTA (Afghanistan National Radio TV) as TV and Radio news presenter.

I am a single mother of two and have done my bachelor’s degree in political science and law. I worked voluntarily as a women’s rights activist alongside being a journalist for equal rights for women in Afghanistan.

I was evacuated in August 2021 to the UK and started advocating for women rights.

In February 2022, we were resettled in High Wycombe and began a new life. My children have enrolled in school and I am pursuing short courses in English with the help of WRP (Wycombe Refugee Partnership). I have done professional development, different courses with IRC for integrating in society and job seeking. I have done a six-month course on journalism with RJP (Refugee Journalism Project) and found these courses very helpful. I worked voluntarily with the Refugee Council with their social media team which gave me the hope that I can continue my job as a journalist again here in the UK. Then later I got a fellowship with the Refugee Council with the partnership of UAL as communication assistant. Now I am working as a reporter with the BBC in the Afghan service desk. I have started working with a charity organization as a Content Producer as well which is a great experience. I applied for a master’s degree in a university in London and was offered a place, but I needed to defer it for next year to find a scholarship available with my refugee status as I can’t pay the fees and I need to support my family as a single mother. 

I especially miss and worry about my female colleagues. Most of them are no longer employed as they once were. My role has been filled by another.

In the UK, I feel secure and my children's lives are safer here. The regulations are more robust and my children can attend school. I am actively seeking employment in my field. 

I have started advocating for Afghan women’s rights and refugees in the UK and I have been selected Refugee Week Ambassador for 2023 by IMIX, a charity organization.

I have been selected Refugee Week Ambassador for my hard work and campaigns about refugee rights and equality for refugees here in the UK. Being chosen as the Refugee Week Ambassador for 2023 is a testament to the belief that change is possible when individuals come together to champion a cause. It is a reminder that every voice, every effort, no matter how small, contributes to a larger narrative of hope and resilience.

As I embark on this new chapter of advocacy, I am filled with gratitude for the opportunity and determination to make a lasting impact. Together, we will continue to work towards a world where refugees are not just seen, but truly heard and valued. This is the promise of the Refugee Week Ambassadorship for 2023, and I am honoured to be a part of this remarkable journey.