BSU’s Youlearn offered Asha two action-packed learning days. Project workers, Neil Seepujak and Matt Pointon, commented “Following on from our work with the U3A, we wanted to see if we could link up with other hard-to-reach learners. We know how difficult the transition to life in the UK is and how precarious the situations refugees are in, so we wanted to listen and to provide learning that would be of help.”
The day began with ESOL classes on points of grammar, delivered by Project Worker Matt Pointon, who is an experienced ESOL teacher. Neil then delivered sessions on IT including using government websites, rights at work and the reasons to join a trade union.
After a wonderful lunch cooked by service users, encompassing diverse world cuisines, there were lighter sessions on discovering the history of the Potteries, and days out you can enjoy from Stoke-on-Trent. Commenting Matt said, “It was really uplifting being able to work with the Asha service users, some of whom I have no doubt will make valuable contributions to the trade union movement in the future.”
Asha believes that it is important that our volunteers are remunerated for their work. This is why Asha pays towards the cost of their travelling to the Centre from outlying neighbourhoods as well as a small lunch allowance.
We believe that volunteering for Asha or attending the Women and Children’s clubs may for many be a crucial first step towards becoming integrated in their local community.
The 5th Hartshill International Day was held in Stoke on Trent on 5 May 2018. This annual event organised by the community group Hartshill and Harpfields Occasions (HAHO) recognises and celebrates the fact that people from 55 countries live, work, study or worship in the two wards of Hartshill & Basford and Penkhull & Stoke, and over 50 languages are spoken, making it – we believe – the most diverse neighbourhood in the City.
Each year ASHA North Staffordshire participates fully in the day with a stall of information, craft items made by clients of the organisation, and musical performance. This year staff member Godfrey Seminega was joined for a lively session on African drums by clients Guigui Guillaume and Osman Karim Hira, a contribution which was very much appreciated.
Several members of the public brought along bags of food items to donate to ASHA in solidarity with asylum-seekers and refugees in our area and to demonstrate their support for the good work of the organisation.
HAHO thanks ASHA North Staffordshire most sincerely for their continued involvement with Hartshill International, and looks forward to working again with them for many years to come.”
On Saturday 12 May 2018 Asylum seekers enjoyed a Clay Workshop on Saturday, 12 May led by Clay Artists, Andrew Brown and Christine Steven on: Everyone enjoyed making objects which held memories for them and Andrew produced couscous and a Moroccan Tagine for lunch!
On Wednesday 9th May a group of 18 asylum seekers, several children in pushchairs and three English teachers (Margaret, Sue and Diane) made the short journey from Asha to the Potteries Museum. The visit was a resounding success and gave them all the opportunity to practice their English as well as to learn about the local area.
The asylum seekers spent time in the Natural History Gallery and learnt about some of the animals and birds which can be seen in and around Stoke on Trent. They found this very interesting and especially enjoyed taking photos of themselves with some of the animals, such as the fox and deer!
Afterwards they each had the opportunity to order a drink for themselves in the café where they enjoyed socialising with each other before returning to Asha.
They were surprised that the entrance to the Museum was free and a number of them said they would like to visit it again.
Taking place on a Saturday ASHA was unable to give this conference the support it might have wished but neither did we realise how relevant the conference would be for our staff and users. If we had we might have found a way of enabling more asylum seekers to attend. As it was Angela accompanied by Hassan al-Shayter and Mohammed Al Hariri attended in the morning and were joined by Godefroid in the afternoon.
Organised by Keele Friends of Medecin sans Frontiere with support from the Keele Research Institute for Primary Care and Health Services the keynote speech was by Dr Tirej Brimo from UHNM Hospital, A Syrian refugee who graduated after 10 years in four countries, Torej was named in a prestigious global list of the best physicians of the year by a leading medical website in December 2017. His address would have inspired any asylum seeker not to give up hope and to believe that he or she had a future.
The final speech was by Steve Ali, a young refugee who described how the war in Syria had destroyed his childhood idyll in Eastern Ghoutta and his painful and dangerous journey until his final successful crossing from the Calais Jungle to England. Steve now works as an interpreter for the BBC, NBC Universal and Race Action.
David Flecknoe, a registrar in public health and a registered nurse who has worked in war torn areas with MSF, spoke about the mental health of refugees and taking advantage of the occasion, Angela spoke to him and Dr Brimo about visiting ASHA.
ASHA received significant attention because no one had appreciated that there are 950+ asylum seekers on the Keele doorstep. We had made our number before Godefroid and Angela took a small Break Out group in the afternoon. The students were enthusiastic to know more about ASHA and we were all given a box of chocolates and a certificate of attendance and a ‘Thank you’ card for ASHA.
We can expect this to be the beginning of more contact between us.
Eleven asylum volunteers, seven local volunteers, five supporters, two staff from New Step and guests from Alsager Justice and Peace and the North Staffs Women’s Network assembled for sessions on Culture and Belief (Dr Barbara James), Managing Trauma,, Depression and Stress (Sarah Wilshaw, Specialist Mental Health Nurse, Asylum and Refugee Health Team), Making Referrals (John Walsh) and Accommodation and Homelessness (James Walker, Arch). The morning was rounded off with a short video of a refugee choir singing ‘Lean on Me’ followed by a Buffet Lunch.
Evaluations rated the training Good or Excellent!
Please see below a list of upcoming ASHA events. Come along and get involved!
Tuesday 17 April Amnesty International: John will attend an Amnesty International meeting in London on ‘Football Welcomes Refugees.’
Friday 20 April Volunteer Training (Part One): for local and asylum volunteers.
Saturday 21 April: Keele Conference: Journey of a Refugee – Global Health Challenges organised by Keele University Friends of Médecin sans Frontieres and the Research Institute of Primary Care and Health Science. Angela and Barbara with some asylum seekers will attend in the morning and be joined by Godefroid and Lydia in the afternoon.
Friday 11 May Volunteer Training (Part Two): for local and asylum volunteers and interested supporters.
Saturday 12 May 10-4.00pm: Hearing Clay Touching Sound: Experience of Migration Andrew Brown and fellow artist Christine Stevens will be using clay as a medium to encourage a group of people who have experienced displacement to share their experiences of migration and relocation with one another. An exhibition of some of the outcomes is scheduled at Airspace Gallery in November 2018.Ten ASHA users are invited to take part and travel and lunch is included.
Tuesday 19 June: Showcasing ASHA’s Services Supporters and organisations offering services to asylum seekers are invited to a half day meeting and lunch to mark Refugee Week (18-24 June).
Saturday 23 June: Football Tournament: To mark Refugee Week with a barbecue and music for everyone in the evening.