Tom’s volunteering in Athens

Tom Doust, one of MRA’s founding members, has been in Greece this summer. He was volunteering at an organisation called Ankaa ( which provides support to vulnerable communities such as asylum-seekers, refugees, migrants and other people seeking employment. He has been volunteering as a teacher at Ankaa since 2019.

The approach at Ankaa is holistic and ranges from the delivery of educational programs to skills development in order to open the path to the employment market. Their social business model advocates for sustainable products created under fair and ethical working conditions. As social and environmental challenges are interconnected, they include a positive approach towards the environment and the principles of circular economy in all their programs and activities.

Last year Ankaa moved to a new building in Kipseli. It is smaller than their previous one but is in a much more convenient location. The new building has a garden and 3 good sized balconies.

In addition to the core language and tailoring classes they offer, Ankaa have evolved some other activities to fit into their sustainability ethos. Although they are limited by space they are trying to partner with other organisations and businesses to provide some vocational training and skills. This works well alongside the upcycling projects run by the tailors. The sustainability coordinator Nikos, keeps bees and runs a bee keeping course – with a marketable (and very tasty) product.

The garden is being developed with the help of a permaculture organisation Nea Guinea (Νέα Γουινέα) They have advised on some of the issues with urban gardening and with growing plants from seed. They lent a small polytunnel and the students grew a range of vegetables and flowers; these were sold in the Kipseli community market.

Ankaa gardenAnkaa garden

I’ve been helping evolve the garden and the plan is to repeat the seed growing to plant-sale model. In summer 2022, while I was there, MRA generously donated €250, the bulk of which was spent on a portable greenhouse, the rest on some plants to keep the garden active over the summer. Having a greenhouse that is easy to move allows them to make full use of the 3 balconies as each gets different amounts of light and shelter in the winter.

The soil in the garden is pretty poor but homemade compost, and a lot of advice from Nea Guinea, is helping improve it. Hopefully it will get more productive, but in the meantime the greenhouse and growing seedlings in containers is proving to be a great way of teaching some of the basics of growing stuff.

I’m just about to go there for the 5th time and am looking forward to seeing how the garden is developing.

Refugees from Ukraine coming to Marlow

Currently UNHCR believes there are over 4 million refugees from Ukraine, with more than 2.3 million in Poland alone. Some of these refugees are in the process of applying to come to the UK, and about 20 families from Marlow and the surrounding area have submitted visa applications to welcome refugee families, around 60 people, into their homes. To date just two visas have been issued.

This is being coordinated by Marlow Ukraine Collective, a community group which has only been in existence for two weeks, since the Government launched the Homes for Ukraine scheme. The group can offer support in finding sponsors for Ukrainian families and vice versa; assistance in the completion of visas, and translators and interpreters for calls with Ukrainian families. Going forward they are looking to help people find jobs and, with the help of other organisations, support families to settle in the UK.

Marlow Refugee Action has launched a fundraiser that will be ring fenced to support these families in the local area when they arrive. Please donate to it if you can.

Are you considering hosting a family? Do you want to offer help to Ukrainian families when they arrive? If so, then you can contact the group by email at You can get further information, and see what else they are doing, by following their Facebook page – Marlow Ukraine Collective. They plan to launch a website shortly.

We are also giving thought to the impact of the current war, and resulting exodus of families from Ukraine, on our local community. We have put together a page of helpful information for parents and teachers who want to talk to young children about the situation in Ukraine.

Currently the Government states that potential hosts must nominate a named Ukrainian individual or family to host. We have created a list of organisations which may be able to help with this process on this page. Please email us any additions for this list, or information on your experience, to aid the Marlow community. The page also contains a lot of additional information for hosts and those considering hosting, including a link to information about the UK application process in Ukrainian.

Some local organisations, such as Christ Church URC, are collecting goods to send to refugees in countries bordering Ukraine. They have a specific list of goods needed (which is regularly updated). It is posted on the entrance door to the church in Oxford Road or see their website. Drop off times are 10-12am on Wednesdays and Fridays and 4-6pm on Sundays. Please do not leave any goods outside of these times.

Alternatively you could help in the following ways:

1) Financially donate to reputable organisations who already have infrastructure in place to make a difference on the ground. For example, the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) has an active appeal.

At Ukraine’s borders with Poland, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Moldova, huge numbers of people are arriving with only what they can carry. DEC charities and their local partners are in Ukraine and in neighbouring countries providing food, water, shelter and medical assistance.

Alternatively, click on the link to see the Ukrainian Institute’s recommendations.

2) Write to your MP. Putting pressure on the UK to welcome Ukrainians to the UK is vital. Although there is now a scheme available for refugees to seek to come to the UK, the process is by no means straightforward. Let’s encourage our MPs to push for the scheme to be made more user-friendly!

The current crisis also highlights the woeful flaws in the Nationality and Borders bill – please ask our MPs to reject the most controversial aspects of the bill, and demonstrate their commitment to the UN Refugee Convention.

Our local MPs are Joy Morrissey, MP for Marlow/Beaconsfield ( and Steve Baker, MP for Marlow Bottom and Wycombe (

Advisory Board

The Trustees of MRA are always looking to expand their knowledge and experience of helping refugees ‘on the ground’. Hence an advisory board has been set up to provide valuable input, expanding their knowledge, understanding and strategic thinking around the issues affecting refugees. This is an important part of helping us select projects to support and to maximise the impact of our funding.

Advisory Board members have distinctive knowledge of the refugee crisis and some have access to networks operating in this space. They all share our goals of providing tangible support on agreed projects and building awareness in Marlow.

Advisory Board meetings are held up to four times a year. The first was held in November 2021 and a second meeting in February 2022. Both meetings have provided insights into the ever-changing situation for refugees and hence the areas where we can most make a difference. We have also learnt a lot about possible new partnerships and other individuals that we could be working with.

The information provided, in addition to that provided by the partners we fund, is helping MRA to target funds where they are most needed within our agreed criteria:

  • we can often only help a small number of people, so we want to make a significant difference
  • we want to make the people and the issues real
  • we want to connect people with the issues
  • we want to support projects that have connections in one way or another with our local community

Five years of Marlow Refugee Action

October 2021 marked the fifth year of MRA as a registered charity. As with all anniversaries, we feel a mix of emotions as we look back on that time and ahead to future challenges and possibilities. We have enjoyed tremendous support from the Marlow community—from local businesses like Coopers and Candle Calm, to the pupils and teachers at the local primary schools, we are very grateful for the acts of generosity, ingenuity and kindness that have been shown. Our supporters have barn danced, run, cycled and walked literally thousands of miles to raise thousands of pounds. We have collected clothes, boots, tents and mobile phones to distribute to refugees. We have shared some delicious Syrian food, thanks to chef Imad Alarnab, and we have sold hundreds of plants and raffled quite a number of soft toys! You have welcomed us into your churches, schools, WI and Rotary meetings, and on to Marlow FM to talk about the global refugee crisis and how we can work together to help.

It has been inspirational to see people from Marlow giving their time and sharing their skills on the frontline to support refugees and other displaced persons—through legal advice, medical care, distribution of aid, and helping in very practical ways in camps in Calais and Samos.

The projects we fund are those where the money can help a small number of people a lot and where there is a local connection to Marlow. Thanks to your immense generosity, MRA has been able to fund a wide range of projects both abroad and in the UK, providing, amongst other things, education, school uniforms and stationery, legal advice, transport, food and clothes.

While we can reflect on what we have managed to achieve since 2016, the five years ahead of us look particularly challenging. There were an additional 11.2 displacements during 2020, bringing the total number of displaced persons to 82.4 million, of which 26.4 million were refugees. Conflicts in northern Mozambique, Ethiopia and the Sahel region of Africa caused significant numbers of displacements. The situation in Afghanistan became the focus of the world’s attention for a short period but, even before the Taliban had taken over, the country was already described as having “all the hallmarks of a humanitarian catastrophe” due to conflict, Covid-19 and food shortages. The impact of climate change and pressure on natural resources will add to difficulties faced by populations who cannot survive inhospitable environments. The developing world continues to host the largest number of refugees, while developed countries, including the UK, make it increasingly difficult for refugees to penetrate their borders and to exercise their rights under the UN Convention.

At MRA, we will continue to work according to our strategic goals, focusing on changing hearts and minds in our community, building strong partnerships and raising funds. During 2022, we will be making a concerted effort to attract more volunteers to help us achieve those goals—whether that be by increasing our links with schools, assisting with events, helping with social media. We have a great variety of events planned for 2022, including dinners cooked by chef Imad, a wellness festival in Frieth in August, and our annual On The Move running challenge during Refugee Week in June. And, in May, one of our supporters will be taking part in London’s annual cycling festival RideLondon to raise funds for us.