Litter picking around the Mosque 13 January 2020

Marshalled by Tamba, seven Asha users trooped down the road to tidy-up around the Mosque and Stepping Stones.  This was by way of a thank-you to the Mosque for their support and a reciprocal gesture to Stepping Stones who hosted a solidarity event attended by Asha users shortly before Christmas.

The wind was getting up as the litter pickers finished the job but there was just time for coffee in Stepping Stones before the rain came down.

Asha’s drummers set St Giles alight! 12 January 2020

Thank you to Aidan Goldstraw for the video!

Asha is grateful to the Rector of Newcastle’s Civic Church for inviting Asha to introduce a new dimension to their monthly family service which starred our drummers.

Interspersed with hymns and Bible reading, the congregation heard the story of two asylum seekers, one of whom achieved refugee status and is completing his third year at university and other who was killed when his final appeal to stay had been rejected and he had little choice but to opt for voluntary return to the country he had fled.

The congregation learned how the hand of friendship reaching out to a new arrival, can alleviate the pain, separation and loss of family, home, job, community and country.

One of Asha’s teachers concluded the event by introducing a couple of Befrienders and Befriendees, Jamal and Comfort, before reading a poem, a ‘Glass of Tea’, by Shukria Rezael, aged 15.

Last year, I held a glass of tea

to the light. This year,

I swirl like a tealeaf in the streets

of Oxford

Last year, I stared into navy blue sky.

This year,

I am roaming under colorless


Last year, I watched the dazzling sun

dance gracefully. This year,

The faint sun moves featurelessly

And my heart, I’d say

Is displaced

Struggling to find its place

The children’s Christmas Party gets bigger and better each year Saturday 21 December 2019

The Staffordshire University Sports Hall is big enough for large party games with the bar area for parents although this was a tight squeeze.

Sporting Communities had lunch bags for the children and Asha’s volunteers cooked for the parents, guests and volunteers. The food this year included delicious samosas cooked by two Pakistani members of the women’s group and seaweed dumplings and vegetable noodles contributed by Chinese members.

Ben Rigby, Managing Director of Sporting Communities, and his experienced team organised games for every age group and the party ran like a well-oiled machine! The queue for Santa Claus was patient as was the parent’s collecting bus fares for the journey home. All in all, a successful occasion for everyone.

Full steam ahead on toy wrapping day

Eighty-seven children were signed up for the Christmas party and a team of volunteers gathered to wrap the toys from the Tesco Toy Appeal and another tranche collected by Keele students.  The operation commanded by Ryn, was efficiency itself. It needs to be because or tempers can fray queuing for Father Christmas if presents aren’t quickly despatched!  Inevitably there will be parents and children arriving without having registered for the party, so a supply of reserve presents is also needed.

Several staff and volunteers gathered to wrap around the donated toys and hall lookwd quite magical as they set to work.

Tesco Christmas Toy Appeal 12 December 2019

Accompanied by Ryn’s husband Paul with his big car, Angela represented at a Toy Collection gathering in the Delilah Suite at Stoke City FC Stadium. There was a large gathering of local charities, several of whom entertained before a buffet. The toys were all in large Santa sacks and a big box. After a speech from Chloe Challinor, Marketing Manager of Aspire it was time to gather up the toys and leave but not before Angela had been wished a Happy Birthday and presented with a beautiful bunch of flowers!  She had inadvertently let the cat out of the bag to Liz Locker, Tesco’s Community Champion, and she was 85 that day and of course Liz could not let this pass unnoticed! Thank you, Tesco.

Introducing our footballers to the Peak District 7 December 2019

Champions of the South West peak who are also volunteers at Asha took our football players to Roaches as part of their first trip to the Peak District, funded by the South West Peak. 

Fifteen players with five supporting champions, Tasha and other mentors made the trip. A tea break was organised at Marsh Farm before the walk. 

The trip was climaxed right on top of the Roaches where participants took a lot of photos or themselves and the views and had fun.

 On return to Marsh farm we had a complete African lunch of rice and okra with grilled chicken. A large dish of vegetarian food was also prepared for those on the other side of the diet. 

The trip is very memorable as it was full of fun and excitement. 

Planting bulbs in Hanley Heritage Park 29 November 2019

It is a bit late in the day to plant bulbs, but one user enjoyed the experience and we hope more will do so in the spring.  Looking ahead Claire, the Hanley Park Liaison Officer, attended Asha this Friday morning to describe the various free activities in the Park available to anyone who wishes to join.

Bringing our neighbours together Saturday 23 November 2019

Our Muslim neighbours at Stepping Stones invited Asha and others in the neighbourhood of Shelton to meet, eat and network to breakdown stereotypes of who we are and what we represent and to strengthen a sense of a shared community.

Angela, a new volunteer and four Asha users including a Mum with two children took up offer.  The basic tenets of Islam were outlined, three musicians with drums sang some sacred songs and several local speakers described where they came from before everyone enjoyed a delicious meal. After this there was an opportunity for a guided tour of the Masjid or Mosque. Our group brought up the rear and it was a moving moment when the chairman went in search for a copy of the Quran in Arabic for one of Asha’s new arrivals.  He returned with what he described as a very special edition. It would be fair to say that this simple act of thoughtfulness meant a great deal to the recipient.  The afternoon was rounded off with more networking and delicious cakes to see us on our way.

Litter picking in Cheadle 22 November 2019

Why Cheadle?  Because Asha receives regular support from the Methodist Church and as Heather Bates said, “They do this as a way of saying thank to the people who support them.”

The group of four staff and 12 asylum seekers were greeted by the Revd. Julie Hassall, a minister and superintendent of the Staffordshire Moorlands District Methodist circuit.

It was reported that several people asked the litter pickers who they were and on learning they were asylum seekers the response was positive. This was heart- warming as it is not always so. Councillor Ian Plant, Mayor of Cheadle, looked in and enjoyed a chat and some refreshments too.

Asylum Early Action 25 October 2019

Tamba and Misbah represented Asha at a national forum in London funded by Refugee Action. The forum aims to discover and implement services that help people in the asylum system before they reach crisis point. The forum is a vehicle to give of asylum seekers a campaigning voice on issues like the (broken) dispersal system and for permission to work if a claim is not resolved in six months. Ref.