December has been a busy month of celebrations as we held three events to mark College of Sanctuary month.
City of Sanctuary started in 2005 with the vision that the UK should be a welcoming place of safety for all and proud to offer sanctuary to people fleeing violence and persecution. That idea has now spread into a grassroots network of more than 120 local groups in the UK.
Schools & Colleges of Sanctuary is an initiative from Bristol City of Sanctuary, which aims to foster positive attitudes within schools, colleges and their communities around people seeking sanctuary, and support schools and colleges to take positive steps towards being places of safety and inclusion for all.
First, we held a College of Sanctuary breakfast on 3 December at Ashley Down Centre, where we welcomed community leaders and representatives from charitable organisations to discuss initiatives happening across Bristol to foster an inclusive environment for all. Bristol City of Sanctuary Trustee Ruth Pickersgill gave a talk about importance of City and College of Sanctuary statuses, while City of Bristol College’s Cathy Bowstead and Carolyn Nye spoke about what we do to support these initiatives within the College.
Next, we were honoured to welcome Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees to College Green on 9 December to officially receive our College of Sanctuary award. Being an accredited College of Sanctuary means we are committed to being a safe and welcoming place for people whose lives were in danger in their own country. We are proud to help our students, staff and wider community to understand what it means to be seeking sanctuary, and to extend a welcome to everyone as equal, valued members of our college community.
Speaking at the presentation, Chief Executive and Principal Rich Harris said: “City of Bristol College is very proud to have been awarded College of Sanctuary status. This accreditation is now renewed every three years and we are pleased to be able to demonstrate our ongoing commitment and support to those seeking sanctuary in Bristol. Bristol was officially recognised as a City of Sanctuary in 2010 and since then, has worked hard to ensure that Bristol is an inclusive and welcoming city and this is a value central to everything that we do at the College.”
Finally, it was over to our fantastic hospitality and catering tutors and students on 13 December for a special College of Sanctuary lunch at our City Restaurant. We welcomed 30 of our ESOL students, both past and present, and representatives from Off the Record, Bristol Refugee Festival and Borderlands.
One of our lunch guests, Mustafa, said: “I just would like to thank you for the wonderful lunch celebration took place yesterday. It meant to me a lot. I cannot explain how proud I am to be here within this great society and wonderful people. Thanks for everyone who attended and for the great students who cooked this delicious food.”
City of Bristol College’s internal working group for College on Sanctuary meet on a regular basis to put on activities for students, discuss how the College can further work with external partners and come up with ways to support the needs of new students coming to the country seeking sanctuary.