Rossana Leal, Founder and Director of the Buddy Project, is 2019  Women on the Move Awards winner for her outstanding work  organising welcome for refugees and migrants in Hastings.  

On Thursday 13th June 2019, 6–8pm Rossana and members of the Hastings Buddy Project are launching exciting new initiative called ‘Open’ a facility to enable refugees to work out their own journey towards recovery through skill sharing and collective responsibility. “You have to go on living your life” said Rossana, herself a refugee from Chile.

“We all look for refuge and safety at some point in our lives”
“We all experience anxiety, loss and displacement.” said Rossana. “The space will put across the concept of refuge as universal, not unique to refugees”. Through the visibility and inclusivity of the space at Open, she hopes to break down some of the myths and supply a space where people can develop their ideas and integrate with local people.

“Refugees are often consulted but not allowed to lead”
The space will be fluid, its appearance and uses responding to ongoing consultation with the users, refugees and their buddies, who will take responsibility for organising and running the facility, though they welcome anyone who wants to contribute. There will be a cafe and space to hire for events, exhibitions, meetings, workshops, etc. The cafe is already licensed to sell drinks and pastries to take away. Syrian pastries will be made at home and Rossana is arranging for the use of local registered kitchens and for all who work in the cafe to get food hygiene certificates. This is more to create income for the participants than for the facility. It’s a small start, but I’m guessing these pastries will soon be in huge demand.

The space will be open to hire for exhibitions, though priority will be given to the work of artists who have not been honoured or represented and whose work celebrates a determination to use talent to survive trauma.

‘Open’ will launch officially with an exhibition of portraits of the families with their buddies by local photographer Andrew Grainger, to celebrate the Hastings and Rother Refugee Buddy Project.

Thursday 13th June 2019, 6–8pmAt: OPEN, 19 Grand Parade, St Leonards-on-Sea TN37 6DN

This exhibition celebrates the launch of ‘OPEN’ and the work of the Hastings & Rother Refugee Buddy Project in connecting communities This is a free entry event but we need you to confirm your attendance by email to

“We’re doing this on no money”
Many routes to funding are not available because the project doesn’t have an appropriate structure such as a permanent finance/personnel/project manager, although in practice, professional expertise is available through volunteers. They are also operating in an environment of hostility from government and the media. Rossana, who is very experienced at running projects, says what’s needed is people who are passionately connected to the project and understand the kinds of organic processes which make things work. “Working things out collectively is a longer process, but a better one. In Britain we need grass roots activism at the moment. We need a combination of passion, integrity and empathy, with process as a guide, not at the heart of projects.”

For more details and to support Rossana and Buddies please see their fundraising campaign page here

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