The contrast couldn’t be more striking. From the bombed-out, shot-up, blood-stained streets of Aleppo, Damascus, Homs and Kobane to the tranquil towns and roads of Cumbria. From the arid and stony scenery of the Middle East to the damp and luscious landscape of the land of the lakes.

The refugees that Cumbria is welcoming this month have endured violence, deprivation, long journeys, life in a refugee camp and an exhausting, disorienting journey to another and very different part of the planet.

Far from the home they are so used to.

Theirs has been a long and traumatic journey to safety.

The UK Government has pledged to bring 20,000 of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees to the UK by 2020. Cumbria is playing its part by welcoming 285 to the county over the next three years.

Cumbria’s first refugees are due to arrive very soon and be welcomed to their news safe and secure homes in Carlisle and in the Eden Valley area.

More are expected to arrive later this year.

Cumbria has responded with a collective county-wide multi-agency approach, combining health, education, housing and social welfare experts with volunteers and charity workers.

The county council wants to ease the new families into Cumbrian life as quietly as possible, with the minimum of fuss and fanfare to make their first days as stress-free as possible.

More than 100 people have volunteered through the Carlisle Refugee Action Group to help the refugees settle in and to support them.

Adrienne Gill Adrienne Gill, of Crag, said: “We have been overwhelmed by the number of volunteers who have come forward to help with English language support and befriending.

“We have taken on the role of community support for the refugees when they arrive.

“We have some funding to run a weekly drop-in session which will work around their needs.

“There will be an intensive programme of support for the first few weeks.

“They may be nervous of coming to a different country, but they are coming to a safe country and we are hopeful that they will receive a good welcome here.

“They have to be given some time to settle into their new homes, have some space and be allowed to build their lives.

“We have more than 100 people who have offered one form of support or another.

“It is just amazing and really encouraging.

“They are mainly from the Carlisle area, but we have contacts around Cumbria and there was a meeting in Penrith recently which attracted more than 50 people.”

Councils have been working closely with government officials, charities and statutory authorities for months to prepare for the families’ arrival and ensure that they are properly supported.

Arrangements include organising specialist case workers and interpreters; housing; school places; support with health needs and employment and any benefits.

Support for the refugees is funded by the Home Office as part of the national resettlement scheme for Syrian refugees.

Aftab Khan Aftab Khan is development officer of Awaz, a support organisation for Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) people and groups in Cumbria and a member of the strategic group responsible for the settlement of the refugees in the county.

Mr Khan believes the new neighbours could provide a major benefit to the county in many ways.

He said: “The level of education and learning of Syrian people is very high and there may be doctors and highly educated professionals as well as skilled electricians or mechanics.

“They will be rebuilding their lives and contributing to our economy and the development of the local community. I would say to them that this is a lifetime’s opportunity for them to rebuild their lives.

“I would tell them to appreciate the beauty and landscape of Cumbria and work with the local community to enrich the cultural diversity of Cumbria.”

Since the crisis exploded in March 2011, it is estimated that about 470,000 people have been killed as a result of the war. Many of them civilians.

An appalling figure that is hard to get your head round.

But Cumbria – the whole of Cumbria – has a population of just under 500,000.

Jane Yates is a teacher at Armathwaite school and a Global Learning co-ordinator.

The Global Learning Programme is funded by the Department for International Development to help students learn about the challenges our world faces and think about issues such as poverty, inequality, refugees and sustainability.

She said: “Cumbria has welcomed refugees before – I have met so many people who said they had welcomed Bosnian and Ugandan refugees in the past.

“People are showing real empathy and there is a strong group of people who have volunteered to help.

“I think it is absolutely fantastic the huge support that has come from Cumbrian people.

Jane Yates

“We have had all these disasters that have affected the county, such as foot and mouth and floods and I’m really proud of how we react and how people reach out to others, even though they may be in difficulty themselves.”

Mr Khan also believes the Syrian families will be readily accepted by Cumbrians and added: “The people of Cumbria are passionate and generous and have been supportive in the past of people who are in need through conflict, war or natural disasters.

“Two years ago, Cumbrians were very supportive of the people of Nepal following the devastating earthquake and some volunteered to go and help out there.

“We have welcomed refugees from Kosovo and from the kindertransport during the second world war.”

But he also cautioned: “They need to look out for their own personal safety and if they hear or experience any form of racism, to report it. They and local people need to understand each other’s cultural differences.”

Mrs Yates worked in refugee camps in Pakistan during the nineties and said: “As a teacher, I’m raising awareness of the misconceptions that can arise about the whole refugee crisis and how it gets muddled up with politics and immigration.

“The figure of 285 is very small scale, we should be focussing on the bigger picture of all the refugees everywhere.”

The county authority welcomes any offers of support for the refugees. It has said: “As part of the support provided to refugees, offers of help from members of the public, organisations and private businesses are very welcome as these will help with the resettlement of refugees.

“Offers of support will be co-ordinated centrally to ensure they are used as effectively as possible and can include a range of things such as toys and books, clothes, befriending and a variety of goods and services.

“We know that community groups and local volunteers are keen to offer support, many have already.

“We have all of this information and as the refugees settle in the county they will be informed about what is on offer in their communities and introductions will be made to local groups if refugees want to access this support.”

If anyone would like to support the refugees, they are asked to email information about their offer to