Cheltenham Group and Cleeve School to Help Young Refugees in Syria

This is an article published in the Gloucestershire Echo on 23rd November following Chris Vidler’s visit to the Bekaa Valley to distribute laptops and create links with the refugee community there.

Cheltenham Group and Cleeve School to Help Young Refugees in Syria

A Cheltenham group set up to help refugees resettle in Gloucestershire is extending its work by forging a link with four refugee camps in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. They have been helped by the Cheltenham based charity “IT Schools Africa” who have donated 6 laptops for use in the camps, and by students from Cleeve School, Bishops Cleeve, who plan to set up direct on-line links with young refugees living there.

Chris Vidler, Education Co-Ordinator for Cheltenham Welcomes Refugees (CWR) has led the initiative and visited Lebanon. He told the Echo: “Incredibly, around a quarter of Lebanon’s total population of 6 million people are refugees from Syria. The Bekka Valley camps are home to 400 families, mainly women and children. Around 100 men are missing, trapped in Syria or thought to be dead.


“While most of the families have been in Lebanon for 4 years or more, their position remains very uncertain and they have no sense of security. Men in particular are under constant threat of being sent back, which is often life threatening. To make matters worse, children who are older than 13 get no state education.”

“Only a tiny minority of refugees have been accepted into the UK and other European
countries; the vast majority exist in a state of complete limbo,” explained Chris. “The aim of the initiative is to give hope to the next generation by offering new opportunities to practice their English and to help acquire life changing skills.”

Chris Newman, the International Schools Co-Ordinator at Cleeve School, agrees. “This is also a fantastic project for our students to get involved in. Using video conferencing, they will be able to converse in real-time with their counterparts in Syria, to appreciate some
of the problems they face and to learn more about the refugee crisis”.

Six pairs of contacts are initially being set-up. If successful, CWR’s target is to increase this to up to 50 pairs, and to involve more local schools in the project.

For more information contact Chris Vidler on 01242 575656, email To contact CWR email


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