A TRIBUTE has been paid to the woman who launched the Coventry Refugee Centre back in 2000.
Penny Walker was presented with a surprise bouquet at the CRMC’s annual meeting by the current Director, Sabir Zazai.
Sabir said: “We all owe a huge debt of gratitude to Penny. If it wasn’t for her vision all those years ago, we wouldn’t be here today.”
Penny said she was very touched to be presented with the beautiful bouquet, and she added that the AGM, which included a lecture by Professor Heaven Crawley, had been an “amazing event”.
“It was so uplifting. There was a sense of people being valued. The staff, the volunteers and the refugees are all clearly valued,” she said.
Penny started the charity after realising that there was little or no help available for newcomers to Coventry. In those days, refugees were mostly from Kosovo, Bosnia, and Afghanistan.
She and a group of like-minded people found premises in Hillfields, and the Coventry Refugee Centre opened on April 1. It was staffed by volunteers, one of whom even paid the rent for the first six months.
They managed to stay open every weekday, and the centre expanded rapidly. Penny left in 2003, but the Centre continued to flourish and moved to Bishop Street. Now, as the Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre, it has a staff of 35 and more than 80 volunteers, and helps some 350 people a week.