ASHA supporter, Maureen Wisken, vigorously promotes ASHA amongst the people of Staffordshire Moorlands. One way she does is by offering regular articles on ASHA’s activities in the SPARK Newspaper. This is what she wrote in October last year.
ASHA staff, volunteers and service users were overwhelmed with the several car loads of harvest food gifts from Churches across the Staffs Moorlands Methodist Circuit and asked me to say a huge thank you. To say the store room was virtually bare isn’t an understatement so the huge top up was very welcome. But food is given out almost as fast as it comes in so please keep donations flowing. Trinity Church in Leek and Cheadle Methodist Church in Cheadle are happy to receive your donations and pass them on.
Most needed items are sunflower oil, basmati rice, tuna, pasta, long life milk, lentils, chick peas, coffee, and tea.
How badly needed are the services ASHA offers?
The bald facts below paint a graphic picture of the level of vital activity provided by this relatively small charity.
|965 -the total number of asylum seekers currently registered in Stoke-on-Trent
(Not including an unknown number who are destitute because their claim has been refused)
346 -the total number of service users accessing ASHA in the last 6 months–many of whom are destitute and do not receive any public support
Of these 207 are men ,138 are women plus 87 children
47 the number of different nationalities of people using ASHA services
1741 –the number receiving items of donated food
833- the number who have received items of donated clothing
762 –the number who have attended English classes
401- the number who have attended the Saturday Women’s Group (excluding children)
355-the number who have received advice and support from the Red Cross
443- the number who have accessed specialist advice from the solicitor who attends biweekly.
58- the number who were assisted to travel to Solihull for immigration advice
The British Red Cross-how do they help asylum seekers in Stoke?
The Red Cross have a contract with ASHA to provide advice and support to asylum seekers and especially those who are destitute, homeless and in receipt of no support whatever.
Each week Red Cross Case Workers from Birmingham come to ASHA to provide a ‘drop-in’ on Thursdays for initial /less complex cases and on other days in the week by appointment only for cases that need more in depth advice /support.
Where a different level of expertise is required the Red Cross workers refer service users to other agencies including a solicitor who travels to ASHA every other week to help with immigration issues.
Access to these types of support in a local, familiar, safe setting like ASHA provides a vital lifeline to people who are often alone, are way out of their comfort zone, in a strange culture and with little or no influence or control over their lives.
Football To the great delightof an increasing number of young menASHA recently set up a Saturday Football Club with 46 attending in the first 3 sessions. With little or no money for anything but the barest essentials and much time on their hands it is a real challenge for asylum seekers to find enjoyable things to do. Organising football not only taps into the shared love of the sport but also encourages healthy, outdoor exercise and helps develop social contact and friendships between those who may be widely dispersed across the city.
There are plans to join a local league .To do so ASHA staff are keen to attract a volunteer keen and able to help coach and support the emerging team. If you can help contact Godefroid Seminega on
Community link worker
So very many of the asylum seekers in Stoke have brought with them very significant qualifications, skills and experience, which they are not able to put to good use because they are not allowed to take paid employment while their application is being considered-this can take months or, in some cases, years. They run the risk of being deskilled and disheartened if not demotivated.
A number of those attending ASHA already volunteer in local organisations. Those who do find this helps gives structure to their daily which are lives dominated by interminable waiting to hear the outcome of their application. In addition volunteering provides opportunities for them to improve their English as well as offering skills in short supply. Above all volunteering enables them to give something back to the local community, who thereby gain first- hand experience of real live asylum seekers.
To address this situation ASHA has applied for and been successful in gaining a 3 year grant to appoint a part time Community Worker to liaise with organisations and individuals in the wider community to expand the voluntary role of asylum seekers in various settings, for example, industry, hospitals, care homes, community centres, sports centres ,schools etc.
Once the post is filled the work will not only benefit asylum seekers themselves but also the wider community and will go a long way in this city to overcoming negative attitudes prevalent in many parts of the UK to migrants in general
To improve the charity peer support services, improve the quality of this service and reduce the waiting time for support.
The next big event is the Children’s Christmas Party. It is expected that over 100 children will attend and each will receive a present from Father Christmas courtesy of Sporting Communities, who are expert at laying on games and activities for large groups of children of varying ages. This won’t be the end of Christmas for these children. Traditionally the Salvation Army provides a present for every child and these will be given out at the final Women and Children’s groups before Christmas.
Many individuals, faith groups and others contribute to ASHA and collectively, we can make a difference.