Asha receives a stream of callers for support, general advice and sign-posting. Many refugees and asylum seekers have gone through enormous challenges and overcome so many barriers and struggles. Some individuals may merely wish to speak to a friendly person, others have more complex needs. Whatever the need is, Asha will do its upmost to offer effective support.
Below is an account of just a few of the people that Asha has helped to support:
Case Study 1
A family with two children came to Asha after living in Calais ‘Jungle’ refugee camp. Originally from Iraq the family lived in an Isis controlled village. Threatened at gunpoint and their older family members killed for refusing to help Isis bomb local villages, the family managed to escape. They were able to make their way to the refugee camp before coming the UK.
The Home Office ‘dispersed’ them to Stoke and they found their way to Asha who conducted an assessment of their emergency needs. None of the family spoke English and they were fearful of everybody and the children were traumatised by the experience.
The boys were referred to Asha’s Children’s Club for activities to develop their self-esteem and confidence as well as to make friends. The parents were admitted to an Asha English class and for one-to-one conversational English.
Asha helped to get the boys into school and after six months they were better able to interact with others and were making friends. The parents reported feeling happy and less isolated and most importantly, they felt safe.
Case study 2
An asylum seeker from Iraq was housed in Stoke-on-Trent. He was arrested in his Home Office supported housing and placed in detention. A month later he was released and instructed to return to his Home Office housing accommodation, however when he arrived, Home Office housing refused to accommodate him.
After living on the streets he came Asha seeking support. He looked very tired, was unshaven and extremely hungry. Asha staff gave him food and he was offered a haircut, which Asha is able to offer courtesy of an asylum seeker who was a barber in his own country.
He was given a small amount of money to feed himself during the evening and the charity managed to find him accommodation for the night. His solicitor was called to get him into the system so that he can find somewhere to live. He is in in the system and is waiting for interview.
Case study 3
A homeless refugee who had been a victim of female genital mutilation (FGM) type 3 self-referred to Asha. She had become homeless during the transitional period between being given ‘leave to remain’ and able to claim support as a refugee.
She had low self-esteem, low confidence and low aspirations. She was unsure of what her entitlements were and didn’t know where to seek help.
Asha helped her to obtain emergency accommodation and referred her to the Women’s Club and for English classes. She began involving herself in activities and after showing positive change she was recruited and inducted as an FGM Peer Volunteer Supporter.
As her self-esteem and confidence grew she learned how to cope with her past experience of sexual abuse and started an access course that would help her to go to University. She is currently finishing college and has a part time job.
A volunteer's perspective of Asha's English Class (January – March 2018)
In January I started with a small group of 3 students. The numbers have fluctuated from week to week but recently I have been teaching 8-10 students and I have been especially pleased to welcome a number of women and several babies. Of the 10 students who came on the last week (21stMarch) there were 5 men, 5 women and 3 babies.
The students vary in their command of English but the more able ones are able to support the others and it is wonderful to see them all gain in confidence over time. I am sure that some of them will be able to progress to the classes run by the Keele students by next September.
Each week I give the students opportunities to speak and listen (often to an audio tape) as well as engage in reading and writing activities. They especially enjoy role play; for example, practicing buying a rail ticket or asking for fruit and vegetables at a market stall. They are especially happy to ‘buy’ fresh ingredients to take home. As the last week was just before Easter they all had some mini Easter Eggs as a treat! We always try to have a laugh and end with a game – they never seem to tire of playing Bingo!
On one occasion I teamed up with Margaret and we taught our two groups together, which was very successful. In recent weeks Sue, another volunteer, has joined me. This has been very beneficial as many of the students need individual support, especially with reading and writing.
It has been a joy and a privilege to work with these enthusiastic, charming and optimistic young people and I look forward to joining them again after the Easter break.
*Please note that for confidentiality, any photos used are not of the individuals involved in these case studies.