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.