Just before lockdown, we completed on the purchase of an old bank in the heart of Harlesden.
Have you ever wondered how a disused bank transforms into a refugee education centre? It’s new to us, too, but we are working hard to create this space in the centre of Harlesden for young refugees and the local community. If you want to keep up to date with our progress, you can sign up to specific updates by selecting ‘Building updates’ here.
9th October 2020: Update
Having finalised plans for the building and submitted them for approval to Brent Council, we are delighted to share that planning permission has been granted! We are really grateful to the council for their work on what is a complex project and are very excited to be one step closer to breaking ground. The next step on the journey is to seek a party wall agreement with our new neighbours.
Receiving planning permission has been a crucial step on the journey. For months, our design team has been meeting to discuss and refine the structural, mechanical and electrical details of the plans. It’s an ongoing pleasure to work with DGA Architects, Loop Engineering and Akera Engineers, and we cannot wait to see their creativity, attention to detail and technical knowledge bring the plans to life. Now we are one step closer to implementing them and it feels fantastic.
Our focus at the moment is making the building as efficient and sustainable as possible. Our sustainability consultant, Bob Prewett, has been talking us through ways to reduce our carbon footprint, such as improving the fabric of the building, which was built almost a hundred years ago, and using a mechanical ventilation system to bring fresh air into the bank’s old vaults. Heating and cooling the building in this way will also reduce the need for a gas-powered wet radiator system. At every stage of this process we are thinking about how to make the building environmentally friendly, in a global but also a local sense.
We are incredibly passionate about creating this space for young refugees to feel safe and to progress with their education. There is no better place for it than in Harlesden, a community we feel deeply connected to and which embodies the diversity and vibrancy which makes RSN what it is.
There is still a long way to go, and the Covid-19 pandemic hasn’t made things any easier. Be in touch if you’d like to get involved. We are particularly looking for fundraisers to help us make the most out of the building once it is finished, and to raise awareness about the change this will bring for the high street, for RSN and most importantly for young refugees.
RSN grew out of a small, local project in this vibrant and diverse part of north west London and we've been here ever since, even as our work has grown across the UK. Here's what we love about Harlesden:
This new refugee education centre will serve as a national headquarters for RSN and a safe and welcoming space for young refugees. It will also enable us to respond creatively to local needs and priorities, alongside our own initiatives to serve young refugees, through:
- Flexible workspace in which ideas can grow and social initiatives can thrive
- Confidential meeting rooms for educational advice and guidance for young refugees
- Therapeutic space to provide wellbeing support for young people
- Flexible open spaces to allow for delivery of training, education support activities, English conversation classes, and social or peer support activities for young refugees and others
Can you help make Harlesden's refugee education centre a reality?
We bought the building with a combination of funds already raised and a loan from Charity Bank. and we have been awarded over £350,000 by Brent Council towards the refurbishment.
To complete the refurbishment and make the monthly repayments affordable we need to raise a minimum of £349,000. Every additional penny raised will reduce the size of our loan and monthly repayments, giving us more flexibility in how we use the building and deliver our services to young refugees.
All gifts will be acknowledged in a permanent display in the refurbished building and all those who give will be invited to a special opening event and tour. All gifts of £10,000 or more will be acknowledged by way of a personalised plaque on display in the refurbished building, subject to the wishes of donors.
RSN's Chief Executive, Catherine, shares the vision at a pre-lockdown fundraising event: