A POWERFUL new outdoor photography exhibition tells the stories of individuals, organisations, and communities across the UK who are welcoming people who have been forced to flee their homes in other countries.

“The stories in this exhibition are truly inspiring”, says Vicky Tennant, UNHCR Representative to the UK. “People across the UK have generously welcomed refugees and asylum-seekers and are helping them to rebuild their lives in a new home, through integration and friendship. The mutual benefit of supporting and empowering refugees and asylum-seekers who are in turn contributing their talent, creativity and skills, is evident.”

UNHCR travelled to ten locations across the country to meet individuals and groups that exemplify ‘A Great British Welcome’. From a tight-knit community on the Isle of Bute in Scotland, where resettled Syrian refugee Wafa and her two sons learn English and have become an integral part of local life, to a bouldering wall in Liverpool where people forced to flee climb with regular members through monthly ‘Refugees Rock’ sessions, the photos and stories show how compassion and kindness create confidence and friendship.

All those profiled in ‘A Great British Welcome’ exemplify the values of welcome and inclusion that have long defined sanctuary in the UK. For Tess Berry Hart, co-founder of Citizens of the World Choir, creating a community where people come together once a week to sing, share experiences, and meet new friends is a simple but powerful format. “Lots of people don’t know what they can do to help refugees, or they think ‘Oh, I can’t do anything.’ Sometimes just being here, being a friendly face, singing along and welcoming people has that nourishing effect that people need”, she said.

Saeedeh, a refugee from Iran, was able to restart her teaching career at a school in Norwich, using her experience to help 11-year-old Denys, newly arrived from Ukraine, to learn English. She provides one-to-one support to help him catch up on the education he missed after being forced to flee. For Denys, Saeedeh’s support has meant he looks forward to going to school and has made friends as his English improves. “When I don’t know something, she is always there to help me”, he says.

A Great British Welcome is now open at More London near Tower Bridge, overlooking the Thames, and is free for everyone to visit until 8 November. The exhibition features portraits by award-winning photographer Andrew Testa and is produced by UNHCR, The UN Refugee Agency, and Panos Pictures. Interviews and stories accompanying the photos are available on UNHCR’s website. The exhibition is part of an ongoing series by UNHCR  which documents people across the UK welcoming people forced to flee.

* More information here.

* Videos of the stories behind the exhibition are available on UNHCR’s YouTube channel here.

* Source: UNHCR UK