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Hartshill International Day

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.”

Visit to the Potteries Museum

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.

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Global Health Challenges – JOURNEY OF A REFUGEE (21 April)

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.

Half day training for volunteers on local services for asylum seekers and refugees (20 April)

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. 

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.