MEET Zoe Temple – the volunteer who is taking a leading role when it comes to supporting refugee families housed in Conwy and North Denbighshire.
Zoe, a speech and language therapist from Llandudno Junction and part time children’s carer, has been appointed as area manager for Conwy+ at Refugee Kindness – North Wales.
Zoe will be supporting all refugee/asylum seeking/others of equivalent need within the area classified as Conwy+.
Areas include Conwy county, Rhyl, Prestatyn and other areas within Denbighshire.
Zoe, 30, who has a full-time job, a part-time job, and also works for charity The Cinnamon Trust, said: “It really is a very special role.
“I had followed Refugee Kindness on Facebook and saw they were looking for Kindness Buddies. I said I would be interested.
“I like a challenge and I love meeting new people. Since I was appointed, I’ve dived straight in.
“I have already met two families from Syria. They are just human. It hasn’t been sunshine and rainbows here but we haven’t had it like these families.
“They are setting up new lives and we want to support them as much as possible. They need support accessing schools, and just to have a contact. They don’t have that support network.
“They don’t ask for anything. They feel ashamed and are just so grateful to have basic things [such as a lock on the door].
“It is really lovely to speak and meet with the families and build that trust.”
Zoe is working alongside Lisa Kovacs, one of the trustees of the charity who works as deputy headteacher at Ysgol y Gogarth in Llandudno.
She has met families resettled in Colwyn Bay and in Rhyl.
The yoga trapeze artist and paddle boarder said seeing their smiles, when they receive basic items and acts of friendship, is something she cherishes.
She describes it as an “amazing reward” for the work that volunteers put in.
“We have a Facebook page where we advertise for items,” Zoe said.
“This may be items families have requested. Volunteers can sieve through items – we need to do it in a fair way.
“We are appreciative of any donations, of course we are, but we have to give them out fairly.
“We are really hoping to get more volunteers in the Conwy and Denbighshire area. We want people that will befriend families and help with transportation.”
Refugee Kindness now supports over 60 plus families and, over recent months, has become aware of a number of refugee families settled in the Conwy/North Denbighshire region. However, as the number of families they support grows, the charity with its volunteers are finding they are becoming increasing overstretched
Zoe added: “We are not trying to be the Red Cross or replace any other charities – we are in addition to this help.
“It is an honour to be accepted as a volunteer. To think what families have been through and for them to build trust and friendship with us.
“We go in and introduce ourselves and them we keep in touch regularly, go back and have a coffee etc.”
Rachel Watkin, founder of the charity and chair of trustees, said: “Whilst the families we support are usually given the basics when they arrive in the UK, many do not have items that the settled population wouldn’t do without; such as rugs, cushions, food mixers, games for the children etc. Sadly, we have found that many of the families are reluctant to come forward to ask for support and would often prefer to go without than to ask for charity.
“It takes a special person to win their trust and encourage them to believe that they are entitled to the same home comforts as those of us who have not had to flee our homes.
“I am certain that Zoe will bond well with the families to enable us to offer them our full support.
“We believe that there are at least 20 refugee families settled in the Conwy + region (which incorporates part of Denbighshire) and whilst Zoe and Lisa are amazing, they will struggle to support them all without additional assistance.
“We are very much hoping that more volunteers will now come forward quickly, as they did in the Wrexham area.
“We have been overwhelmed by the kindness of all our donors and volunteers.”
Click here for the Facebook page and to follow / find out further information.
Anyone who is not on Facebook that would like to volunteer can email Refugee Kindness manager Jordan Kate: firstname.lastname@example.org
All donations will go through the Facebook page [readers are asked not to email].