A WAR that shook Europe prompted Swindon volunteers to set up a charity that has since helped thousands of refugees and asylum seekers.

Yesterday, the Harbour Project celebrated its 18th anniversary. The Broadgreen-based charity was set up in the wake of the Kosovo War, which made refugees of up to 1.4 million Kosovan Albanians.

Some fled to Britain. Swindon was set up as a dispersal town by the government, with refugees housed in the town while they awaited the result of their asylum claims.

One woman, 52, who celebrated the Harbour Project’s landmark anniversary on Friday afternoon, was among those supported by the Swindon charity after she arrived in the town in 2000 with her husband and two children.

The mother-of-two, who asked not to be named, said: “Harbour gave us amazing support, especially with the paperwork.” She later volunteered with the charity: “What I got I wanted to give back.”

Andrea Hughes, one of the founders of the charity, told the anniversary party that Harbour had gone from strength to strength. But the traits of its supporters and volunteers had remained the same: “generosity of spirit and a wish to make the world a better place”.

At any one time, the Harbour Project supports around 400 refugees and asylum seekers, offering classes in English and Maths, help with paperwork and social activities and groups. Around 40-60 people are seen every day at their drop-in centre on Broad Street.

Kevin Parry, deputy mayor, congratulated volunteers and staff on its anniversary: “18 years in any charity that goes from strength to strength really deserves a round of applause.” He said he had been moved by the story of one Iranian refugee who was learning English at Harbour Project-backed courses, helping her son with homework at his new school.