Latest News

International Women’s Day Crafts

ASHA women attend a Craft Day to celebrate International Women’s Day on Saturday 10th March at Burslem College of Art. Sixteen women with nine children accompanied by Lydia, Eva and Ryn were pleased to attend the Craft Day to show their work and to enjoy lunch.

ASHA is grateful to the Staffordshire Women’s Network who made this possible and to those who contributed towards the women’s travel costs and put £30 in our collecting tin!

Click on the link to see more – Craft Day for International Women

A Report of ASHA New Year 2018 Get Together

About 40 local and asylum volunteers, supporters and guests gathered at the Mirchi in Snowhill for an early evening supper on 25 January. Trustee Angela Glendenning summarised the year as follows:

ASHA moved into Unit 7 just under two years ago. These two years have been something of a roller-coaster but the second half of 2017 was one of consolidation and we embark on 2018 with great expectations.

Highlights of 2017 include:

Our May conference which brought together ASHA, the Jubilee Project and Sanctus to mark Refugee Week. Over 60 people attended and feedback confirmed that it was as successful as we thought it was and this was in no small measure due to our chair, Phil Mayland.

The summer trip to Llandudno could not have happened without Maureen Wisken’s energy. She rallied Trinity Church in Leek and various Methodist churches to raise money to hire two coaches and round up volunteers to share a day by the seaside with ASHA users.

Maureen’s dynamism was not exhausted. She also involved asylum seekers in cooking for Trinity Church’s Christmas Market which raised £2379.25 for ASHA. 

ASHA would not be what it is without the weekly presence of the British Red Cross offering support, advice and advocacy to asylum seekers and we are glad that Red Cross worker Charlotte Swan is with us this evening.

ASHA is indebted to Barbara James who introduced Keele University English students and medical students to ASHA and we are glad Russell Clark, Academic English Programme Director, has been able to join us.

We also have a core group of one-to-one English tutors who offer personal attention to those with little or no English. Margaret Yates is one of them and she is with us.

ASHA has enjoyed several Community Learning days tutored by Matt Pointon and funded by the trade union, Unite.

We owe David Wright and Peter Till, managers respectively of Newcastle and Lichfield Food Banks for their regular donations of surplus food. Stoke Food Bank does not often have much surplus to disperse but does so when it can. Manager Anna has recently moved to another job and Corinne Boden is here in her place.

Thank you Phil Mayland and Carol Lovatt for your commitment in keeping the needs of asylum seekers to the forefront amongst various Roman Catholic congregations.  Newcastle Unitarian Church regularly deposits food and clothing in my porch and various individuals and faith groups do the same.

We are also very grateful to the Salvation Army who come through every Christmas with presents for the children. Theresa Raffan has taken on the hefty task of collecting the toys for distribution and Theresa attended the Christmas Party and is with us tonight.

This year’s Children’s Christmas Party was attended by 138 children and 68 parents.  Each year Sporting Communities organises the party and for over 10 years members of Keele World Affairs have contributed food and money. ASHA is fortunate that Ben Rigby, Director of Sporting Communities is a member of our Board of Trustees.


We are glad to welcome guests, Sarah Wilshaw and Elaine Goldstraw from the NHS Asylum Seeker & Refugee Mental Health Team and Jude Hawes, Citizens Advice with Zak, Assistant Manager in the Asylum Advice Team and Shug from the Into School project. We’re sorry Huda and Chris can’t be with us.

Show me a charity which can boast such a dedicated, hard-working staff as Godefroid and Lydia.  They both work beyond the call of duty and they keep us grounded in our aim to be of service to men, women and families seeking refuge from persecution. We are also delighted to have Jane Bailey as our new finance and admin officer.


Thank you to Kevin Sauntry and our Board of Trustees but above all, thank you  to our local volunteers John, Maureen, Eva, Sarah, Dawn, Diane and Sylvia and our asylum volunteers Roza, Osman, Dabashish,  Manjula, Monis, Jeanine, Sasangi, Kirill, Mansoora, Sirwan,  Mamadu  and Guillaume. 


Without them we would not be able to keep the show on the road.


This occasion is especially for them, to show our appreciation of the way they rise above the stress and pressure of their situation to join us in offering services and care to those who have known such hardship, separation and loss. You give us hope and a renewed faith in humanity. Thank you.

Community Learning Day


On 22 December Union Learn delivered an inaugural Festival of Learning in conjunction with Unite which followed two previous events sponsored by the BSU YouLearn Union Learning Fund

The event was delivered by project officers, Matt Pointon and Mark Rowe and was attended by 29 ASHA service users.

ASHA had requested an input on recycling and why it matters and this session was shared with Stoke Council’s Recycling team. It was an eye opener for participants most of whom hadn’t really got a grip on why recycling is important and the trouble residents can get into for not using their bins correctly. One participant commented “No-one has ever explained all this to me ever before and I have been in this country for six months.”

Another session discussed work and the role of trade unions and most of the information was completely new to the participants.   They had heard about trade unions but were amazed at their actual role and importance in the workplace. When the time arrives to apply for a job an asylum seeker will be better equipped about the world he is moving into.

There was a lively session on ESOL which was of particular benefit for participants who are not yet eligible to enrol for English classes.

ASHA is very grateful to Matt and Mark for their inspiring leadership and very pleased that another learning day is on the cards for February.

Finally, a bonus is that the cost of the day includes a budget for ASHA to supply lunch.  On this occasion, Manjula cooked a lovely curry plus accompaniments and this added a gloss to the whole occasion.

Keele Medical School

Keele Medical School

ASHA was very pleased to welcome a group of final year medical students tasked to visit the centre weekly to familiarise themselves with the ‘world’ of asylum seekers as part of learning about local community services. 

We are always curious to know how others see us and to learn from the experience of visitors. This is how one medical student describes arriving at ASHA.

‘Hidden away on a business park in the heart of Stoke-on-Trent is ASHA. It’s difficult to describe in words the atmosphere created by staff, volunteers and service users in this small centre. When you approach the building, it looks unremarkable, in keeping with the surrounding units on the business park. As you walk in the front door and immediately up a cold staircase into the main room, a sea of warm faces greets you.  The loud noise of chatter, children playing, laughter, the kettle boiling, a strong smell of fresh toast …. It feels like home. ASHA is a place where asylum seekers of all origins, men, women and children are welcome.’

ASHA’s clients felt very much at ease with the students as they discussed the issues they have approaching the medical services in a new country. The outcome of the student’s visits is a beautiful printed leaflet, A Guide to Using the NHS, which in simple language and symbols will help an asylum seeker know where to get help and how to tell a doctor or pharmacist about their symptoms.

ASHA is pleased welcome a second group of medical students and looks forward to their insights into how the centre works and their insight into what matters most for our asylum seekers.