Irwin Buchanan standing by gifts given by refugees who have been helped by ICN.

‘It’s more than a job, it’s what you might call a calling’

International Care Network works hand in hand with local authorities and other charities to warmly welcome refugees to cold Bournemouth.

A shelf that can’t hold any more Thank you cards shows the impact that this charity is having on peoples’ lives. Buchanan’s modest office, full of Kurdish carpets and beautiful gifts from grateful families, leaves one with the impression that here, a difference is being made.

We spoke to Irwin Buchanan, Chief Executive Officer of International Care Network, a government-funded charity that has been running for 15 years, building respect amongst the refugee community.

Buchanan claims that the number of refugees in Bournemouth is around 2000 and is slowly increasing. Some of these come to the UK under the government’s Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme. “This year we have helped settle five families in Dorset, two in Poole and one in Bournemouth,” he says proudly. The government also sends unaccompanied asylum-seeking children to Dorset, which ICN provides support and accommodation for.

The majority of the refugees in Bournemouth are Middle-Eastern, Afghan and Iranian but there are also some from Ethiopia and North Africa.

Buchanan explained that the main challenge for refugees is accommodation. In Bournemouth this is especially arduous, as the local rents are too high for the housing benefit that a family receives.

The other challenge is illiteracy and learning English. The charity offers English lessons in the centre and within the community, for example, a ‘Ladies Conversation Corner’ which takes place in St Albans church in Charminster.

“Most of the refugees come from a Muslim background where they’re used to studying in single sex settings… It’s quite important that we’re sensitive and respectful towards their culture.”, he said.

Most members of the charity’s paid staff work part-time: they are support workers, advisors, teachers, etc. Local volunteers also cooperate with them. Several language schools have recently provided free courses for refugees during the quieter winter months.

With thrilling passion, Buchanan says: “It’s more than a job, it’s what you might call a calling. There’s a sense that actually, whether you believe in God or not, this is your destiny.”

How you can help:

  • volunteer your skills and experience,
  • provide a home for an unaccompanied asylum seeking child,
  • encourage sympathetic landlords to let property to refugee families,
  • donate good quality second hand furniture or household goods and
  • make a donation to International Care Network.


For more information on International Care Network contact:

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