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Every day thousands of people across the world are forced to find sanctuary. Recent events including the devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria and the invasion of Ukraine has led to millions of families being displaced.

According to the Refugee Council, at the end of 2021 around 89.3 million people were forcibly displaced across the world. 27.1 million were refugees, with 53.2 million internally displaced in their country of origin. Staggeringly, 41% of those displaced people across the world are children.

Rebecca Lewis-Smith, our co-founder at Fountain has been volunteering with local charity, New Routes Integration, since the pandemic ended. After seeing the increasing need for support, Rebecca, decided to tackle the crisis head on by taking her 40+ strong team through the process of becoming a Workplace of Sanctuary – the first of its kind in the area.

As a Workplace of Sanctuary, we offer:

  • sessions to refugees to support with CV writing in partnership with local recruitment agency R13.
  • help people with interview preparation
  • offered work experience in our offices
  • internal activities to raise awareness of the campaign to coincide with Refugee Week.

Rebecca said: “I simply can’t imagine how it would feel to leave my home with only the things I can carry for myself and my son and head off to an unknown place in an uncertain and terrifying situation.

“When there is a distinct lack of solutions-focused leadership on a national level, it falls to us, as leaders in our businesses or more locally, to find ways we can make a difference, and help those arriving in our communities with very little to build a new life for themselves and their families.

For too long governments have watched untold crisis’s and not stepped in to make the change we need. I am no longer prepared to watch from the side-lines. It’s become apparent that all of us, as individuals, need to come together and help people through their darkest times – as I hope people would for me and my family if the roles were reversed.”

Claire Wood, Coordinator for Norwich City of Sanctuary shared: “We’re thrilled Fountain Partnership have joined our network of 30+ organisations who have gained our Sanctuary Award. These include UEA, Norwich Theatre, Norwich Millennium Library and many more, each doing what they can to make our city a welcoming place for those seeking sanctuary.”

City of Sanctuary Award, April 2023.

Rebecca finished by saying: “One small way of affecting change is offering work experience in our office. By doing this, we can give people a UK reference when applying for jobs. This dramatically improves their chances of securing work and begin rebuilding their life.

”I am incredibly proud of the way our Fountaineers have taken the Workplace of Sanctuary to heart. The team are passionate about helping the families moving into our area and are all part of the reason we’ve been given this incredible recognition.”

Workplace of Sanctuary is part of a bigger movement, the City of Sanctuary, a vast network of ordinary people around the country stepping up to support people seeking sanctuary in our communities. Norwich is proudly one of those cities, with events such as Norwich Refugee Week taking place from the 19th – 25th June.

The premise is simple, encourage inclusivity, solidarity and compassion for people from a forced displacement background.