By Elizabeth Challand - August 10th, 2023 | Posted in News No comments

Migration is very topical at the moment as we hear daily in the news about boats crossing the Channel, the illegal migration bill or about the barge in Portland. This month we celebrate our Parish Unsung Heroes who lead the St Peter’s Sanctuary Welcome hub which is based in Winchester and helps refugees and asylum seekers alike supported by the community.

Your name

Lesley Sheldon-Browning

What is your Parish

St Peter’s Winchester

What organisation do you support?

St Peter’s Sanctuary Welcome hub

Where is it based?

St Peter’s Catholic Church, Winchester part of the Parish of St Peter and the Winchester Martyrs, which is based in Hampshire and has worshipping communities in Winchester, Alresford, and Stockbridge. The last year has finally seen a return to normal activities, which has enabled a missionary community to grow and thrive. The main highlight from Winchester this year has been the creation of a Welcome Hub for refugees and asylum seekers.

What do they do?

Winchester is a place in which asylum seekers and refugees reside while waiting to hear if their applications to remain in the UK have proved successful. Following the outbreak of war in Ukraine in February 2022, the community of St Peter’s wanted to initiate a pragmatic response to the emerging refugee crisis and so, St Peter’s Welcome Hub was born.

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The hub is open every Wednesday from 10-13:30 and is used by over 60 asylum seekers from across the globe, including people from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Sudan.

A variety of planned activities take place to assist the attendees, including:

  • Conversation classes- to encourage and improve speaking in English.
  • Art
  • Meditation
  • Poetry
  • CV writing
  • Food classes – asylum seekers receive £9 a week. Donations from parishioners and local businesses of fresh fruit and vegetables are brought to the church. Some are used to make meals, allowing the attendees to take away fresh food.

These sessions are facilitated by several local partners including the Job Centre, and the Citizens Advice Bureau. It is a place of welcome where people from all parts of the world who are seeking sanctuary in Winchester come to relax and make friends. We also signpost to local services.

The Society of St Vincent De Paul has contributed to the Welcome Hub along with funds from St Peter’s thanks to the generosity of volunteer donations and community appeals. The Basics Bank has supplied clothing for the attendees and neighbouring churches have donated toys and games.

Why did you choose to join them?

I started the hub in response to the Ukrainian crisis but it has now expanded to include people of all nationalities.

How long have you been involved with the organisation?

Since May 2022

What is your role?

I lead the hub.

Do you need any specialist skills or training?

I have a long history and experience of working with people seeking asylum through another charity “Southampton and Winchester Visitors Group” who now, also have a presence at the hub.

How often do you do this?

The hub operates every Wednesday, but I support people seeking asylum most days of the week.

What do you enjoy about doing this?

I feel that I am using the talents and skills I was born with to make a difference to the lives of these people.

If you had one wish to help this organisation, what would it be?

To spread the word and demystify some of the myths that the Government and media portray.

How can others join or help your organisation ?

By Volunteering at the Hub. Or by donating.

If you know of someone in your parish that leads a scheme like this and deserves Diocese recognition and promotion which may be an inspiration to other Parishes please contact Click to read about our other Parish Unsung heroes .