Asha Christmas Appeal 2021

Asha Christmas Appeal Download

Why not share the magic and love of Christmas with a family you haven’t met?

Bring huge smiles to their faces and joy to their hearts.

There are over 200 asylum seeking and refugee children living in North Staffordshire.

Many of the children that we support have witnessed the most horrific unimaginable things on their journey to the UK. They have experienced war and extreme levels of poverty.

They have left loved ones behind and lost others, many face an uncertain future and continue to live below the poverty line in the UK.

Please donate new toys and gifts to Asha’s Christmas Appeal.

We distribute present to children from the ages of 0 to 18.

You can deliver gifts to our centre on Cooper Street, in Hanley on Wednesdays and Thursdays between 10am and 12 noon.

Alternatively contact Ryn to arrange a mutually convenient time to deliver 07498928617  [email protected]

If you would like to give food or a financial donation please follow the link: Donate – Asha (

A letter to supporters and volunteers 25/06/21


Asha’s optimistic plan for Lunch on the Car Park on 26 June have, as we feared might happen, been put back until Monday, 19 July. On that day, Asha plans a phased reopening with the resumption of a full programme of activities the following week.

An event to gather everyone together will take place later when Asha has had an opportunity to get to know a lot of new arrivals.

Home delivery of food on Mondays and distribution on Thursdays, will continue for the time being. Ryn and Jackie’s programme of out of doors activities for families is gathering momentum and Tamba is facilitating online interviews for users with Refugee Action. Lydia is taking online referrals from the British Red Cross, as well as being available to Asha’s users for immigration advice. Keita is keeping the bike bank going and Asha’s contribution to the NHS Digital Health programme.  John continues to organize online English teaching and is in conversation with Keele University’s English Language Unit for students to resume classroom teaching.

Henni, who has made an outstanding contribution to our children’s work, has left for London to train as a teacher. Staff met with her and Gill, who withdrew earlier for personal reasons, and both were thanked and given an extravagant bunch of flowers, and Henni, a whistle, an inspired choice!

Asha’s volunteers can expect a telephone call from Angela or Helen about their return to Asha, where they will be needed more than ever.

New prospective volunteers can expect to hear from us very soon.

Our manager, Godfrey, has just returned from sick leave and Jane, who stepped-up as deputy manager during Godfrey’s absence, has had to contend with a broken arm. Both need a recuperative holiday!  Kevin, our chair, has had a successful operation, and Angela who was hospitalized for a couple days, was able to resume driving this week. Cath, our vice chair, has stepped up in Kevin’s absence and will do so again when Kevin endures chemotherapy.

Asha sends best wishes and hopes that whatever your personal experience you have weathered whatever the last months has thrown at you.

For information: [email protected] T: 01782-616368

BULLETIN January 2021


A healthy New Year to Kevin, Godfrey, and Jane and ALL the great Asha team and volunteers
Like everyone I am concerned at the present state of the pandemic, at the increasing number of infections and deaths. This is almost certain to continue until a substantial amount of the general population has been vaccinated. I cannot see a return to normality or an extension of services until this happens.

I feel it is time we reflected on the workload that those providing the services have been carrying for the past nine months, especially, Godfrey, Jane and, of course, Kevin. They deserve our gratitude and thanks as do our volunteers and especially those who withstand snow, bitter wind and rain distributing food outdoors on Thursdays! Covid19 is affecting every aspect of our lives and none more so than those who are in the frontline providing vital services to others. I feel that it is crucial that they feel supported when they are working
under so many restrictions. Until there is a clear sign of a return to some kind of normality, it is important that we do not ask too much of the frontline workers. Just do what is necessary to keep services ticking over until matters improve substantially and an increasing number of volunteers can safely return and start the process of an expansion of the other services that we all long to see. I hope that I am not too pessimistic! best wishes and keep well. John

BabaBabbon is the Go-To Site for What’s On in Stoke-on-Trent
Newcastle-under-Lyme. Asha was pleased to read an account of Asha’s Imagine, a project for children to celebrate last year’s Refugee Week. Asha’s is glad that Baboon also recorded the charity’s indebtedness to the Severn Trent and East Midlands community funds for their help in meeting the cost of the tablets distributed to families last year.

DIGITAL INCLUSION IN HEALTH AND CARE Lessons learned from the NHS Widening
Participation Inclusion programme
Turn to page 34 if you wish to know more about Asha’s participation as a community hub in this Digital Health programme. As well as being one of six of pathfinders, the Good Things Foundation has commission Godfrey to lead four workshops for BME foundation to members develop their capacity to engage and develop digital health skills amongst their constituency. /2

Asylum Seekers in Crewe
At the beginning of November volunteer, Diane, started collecting food from Asha and delivering it to a house in Crewe where four men seeking asylum were accommodated. One, from Kuwait, spoke little English and was depressed and anxious about his interview with the Home Office. Diane contacted Lydia who telephoned him. Since then, Diane has visited weekly with food and gradually the number needing support has grown. She now delivers 16 bags of food to five addresses. She was pleased to discover another man from Kuwait and the two exchanged phone numbers. A man from Angola wants to volunteer when he is able to do so.
When the pandemic restrictions are lifted, a local Methodist minister hopes that her Church Coffee Shop may become a meeting place for local asylum seekers.

On-line English Teaching
Last February, the Keele Language Centre in conjunction with Asha hosted a training event led by John Sutter, Director of Learning Unlimited and funded by the Education and Training Foundation. The event was well attended with representation from a majority of local ESOL providers. The focus was on the crossover area between Literacy and A0 Beginner English, a field which is currently undergoing a significant amount of research. Then, the March Lockdown and teaching ceased. Happily, Dr Barbara James, a former trustee and long-term Asha volunteer, and Keele’s Language Learning Unit, was soon into the task of setting up online learning to enable student teachers at Keele University and volunteer teachers at Asha to deliver classes to asylum seekers. Keele University staff tests students first to allocate them to a one of two classes of eight students each, others will be taught by Keele’s TESOL students. Barbara who has been Zoom teaching since March, introduced Asha teachers to its operational features, what materials can be used and how to operate them. Keita identified students wanting to learn English, who were then tested for their level by Keele staff, and allocated to Diane and Sue, Mike, Liz and Sally based on the teacher’s preferences. Keita then supported teachers by arranging their classes and ensuring they were able to operate Zoom. We are pleased that new teachers are now coming on board to help with this project. For anyone who would like to teach English, please get in touch with [email protected]
and for anyone wanting to learn English, contact [email protected] or call down to Asha
on a Thursday morning and speak to Keita and he will arrange for level testing to be carried

News of old friends
ROZA Many will remember Roza and her husband Aslanbek from Ingushetia. She was one of Asha’s most dedicated volunteers, a committed student who applied herself to studying learning English. She always projected a positive image when she and Aslan had little to be positive about. Roza was all set to do degree at Keele University when the Home Office moved her and Aslan to Leicester. Undaunted, Rosa become a volunteer with the British Red Cross; her training included a two-day Microsoft workshop in London to which Aslan was able to accompany her. She also won a 7-day master class at Leicester University. To top all this, Roza has now achieved a master’s distinction in degree in Banking and Finance. CONGRATULATIONS, ROZA. She and Aslan are arrived in the UK in 2012. They are still waiting on the Home Office to know their future.
KIRILL There is also good news from Kirill. Formidably qualified in building and construction in his native Russia, Kirill found obtaining employment in or near Stoke-on-Trent near to impossible. Seeking another approach, Kirill is embarking on a two-year master’s degree in Environmental Sustainability and Green Technology at Keele University with a view to starting his own company. Meanwhile, he has become a grandfather. His daughter, Masha, has had a baby girl. His other daughter Sofia is a primary school teacher. CONGRATULATION KIRILL.
DEVA Another stalwart Asha volunteer was Deva. Besides beavering away at Asha, she volunteered in a local care home and studied to obtain varying certificates in health and social care. On obtaining ‘leave to remain,’ she was allocated a one-bedroomed flat in Smallthorne. In normal times, it might have been ideal but at the beginning of the pandemic it was lonely and isolating. With her experience and qualifications, a job in Stoke should have been forthcoming. Unfortunately, it wasn’t but through a friend she was offered accommodation and employment in Hemel Hempstead and was soon on her way. WELL- DONE, DEVA.
SULIMAN’S STORY My name is Suliman Musa Arnagouk from Sudan. My wife and three boys are in a camp in Cairo, Egypt. I was granted refugee status on 24th December 2019 and Jez, from ARCH helped me get a council ground floor flat on 31st July 2020. In September, my neighbor above me had a water leak that wrecked my flat so when I returned, I had been locked out because the flat was uninhabitable. Four weeks later I returned to my repainted and repaired flat, I was very thankful for getting a complete makeover. Two weeks later, the
council put in a sprinkler system for fires in the flat. I have a tank of hot water and 3 storage heaters in the flat that work. I only use two storage heaters now. I have set up a direct debit with my Bank with the help of Jez so that my rent and council tax are paid regularly. I have got a fridge-freezer from the Heart Foundation in Stoke and an electric cooker from the Furniture Mine just behind ASHA. I got curtains from Dunelm. I must get an extra bed and blankets for when my family join me. I am very happy with everything. I will get a washing machine and carpets for when my family arrive. (What Suliman forbade to mention is that when his first flat became uninhabitable, it was volunteer John M who had been helping him with his English, who came to the rescue. Suliman stayed with John until he could return to his flat and John has helped him to get a grip on what it means to become a householder!)

November Bulletin 2020


 A common assumption is that the centre closed so staff will have time on their hands. This is not the

 case.  In October 411 services were delivered and these break down as follows:

  • 253 individuals collected food and 77 families received home delivery
  • 21 received digital support
  • 18 women and four men received telephone support
  • 22 women received one-to-one emotional support, and
  • 15 received other services

Remote support for families with children falls into the following categories: education 18, social isolation 16, emotional support 7, medical support 2, a total of 43 contacts by Ryn, who works 16 hours a week, and Jackie  eight hours each.

   Children’s Support Service

‘I can’t communicate with many people. It’s really important to socialise – physical not social distancing – with you.  I am improving and recovering.’

Before the second lockdown, Jackie and Gill introduced parents and their children to a nearby park. While the children fed the ducks, played on the swings, ran around, kicking leaves, hugging trees or looking for fairies under a carved wood mushroom, their parents experienced the relief of  someone to talk to about anything and everything  while sharing their children’s fun. Having little English is not proving an insuperable. Google Translate, mime and drawing pictures help!

After a walk, a woman commented that she tested her blood sugar and it was improved. Another said that she often sat in a dark bedroom for hours and getting out for a walk made a real difference. Jigsaws have proved a solace and to have a calming effect as well as alleviating the empty hours. Another said that being outside in the company of another took her mind off a breast cancer diagnosis.

Story Quest, where children follow a storybook tale as they go around a park proved to be  fun for parents and children and stimulated the children to make up their own stories helping them to put their thoughts into words. And they can take a Story Quest book home with them.

These families live with massive uncertainty. Jackie, Gill and Ryn help them to recognize their unique strengths and survival, what works best for them and how to find solutions in order to adapt.

Now it is back to support by phone calls, texts and WhatsApp.

  Children into a school

Since the end of September, five new families with 18 children from Bangladesh, Somalia and Syria have arrived in Stoke on Trent. Some have been living in a hotel for a year and their children have not attended school, others have only been in the UK for a few weeks.

The practicalities of enrolling in school and college remains challenging for Ryn but relationships with schools and the City Council, honed by shared working during the summer, enables any issues to be quickly resolved.

One mother, from China, was frightened of her children becoming ill with coronavirus that she refused to return her children to school. “I’m scared; my children are all that I have.” She thought she could ‘home school’ but her English is limited.  Education Welfare were putting pressure to return her children to school and there was reluctance to use an independent translator so she could make an informed decision. The mother turned to Asha, who knew her and her children and Ryn was able to mediate between her and the school. The children went back to school in October and Asha has provided a Notepad as the family have no TV or access to the internet.

One hundred children now have a Notepad. Before these children were seriously disadvantaged which made their mothers feel inadequate. The children love school and are happy that they are able to look at the same things as their classmates and they feel more involved in their learning.

 A single parent with six children between one and 14 were moved by a London Social Services department to Stoke but our Social Services were not allocated the case and due to Lockdown could offer little. Additionally, the Mum only spoke Arabic and the children only had one set of clothing. Fortunately, Asha was contacted and were able to provide food, clothing, toys and craft activities for the children and link them to an Arabic speaking family.  Enrolment in school got underway and liaison with Social Services continues when necessary.

Often children become their parents’ interpreter, main supporter and recipient of information way beyond their years. Parents may miss medical, school or legal appointments through apprehension of authority. Accompanying a parent to an Early Years Assessment can make all the difference.

 Children’s Activity Worker

Ryn began as Asha’s children’s worker responsible for the Saturday children’s club and work arising from this.  As her link role between parents, schools and other agencies has grown, she has less opportunity for the inter-active work with children, so essential for their emotional and psychological well-being.

This is why Asha is pleased to announce that Henni Hill has been appointed as a Children’s Activity Worker. She will dedicate her time to developing online learning and ways of promoting well-being and social interaction amongst children. Henni is no stranger to Asha. She approached Asha to ask if she could talk to parents and children about their experience of education for her dissertation. It was suggested that she attend the Saturday clubs. She did and stayed as a volunteer.

Most children have had little to no opportunity to see their friends and Henni will help them to meet through social media and she will create an online version of the Saturday children’s group.

  Changes to asylum support

  • The temporary asylum support increase from June 2020 will be made permanent with a very small increase – support rate for people in dispersal accommodation will be £39.63 per week – a 3 pence increase from the June amount.
  • Those in full board accommodation (e.g. hotels) supported under section 95 or section 4(2) of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 will receive payments of £8 per week to cover clothing, travel and non-prescription medication
  • Those who have been in full board accommodation will also get some backdated support:

 £3 per week for clothing needs will be backdated to either 27 March or the date on which someone was granted support, whichever date is later.

  • £4.70 per week for travel needs will be backdated to 1 July or the date on which someone was

granted support, whichever date is later. These backdated payments will be subject to reductions where accommodation providers have provided financial support.

Word of Resilience 24-26 November 7.00 – 8.00 pm

Each night a host of authors, celebrities and poets will explore the concept of resilience

through     literature, as they read, speak and perform alongside survivors of torture.

For tickets and more information,

  Asylum seekers in Sandbach

In May, Asha was alerted 50 asylum seekers, including minors, being accommodated in Chimney House Hotel, half a mile from the M6 and two miles from the centre of Sandbach. This aroused immediate local concern because of the hotels’ isolation and the likelihood that the £5.00 allowance for toiletries would not go far if an asylum seeker needed credit on their phone to contact their solicitor or immigration advisor. Several local people sprang into action and asylum seekers have been self-referring to Asha by phone. With help from Asha supporters living in the area, local individuals and groups were contacted to mobilize support. Food has been delivered and help to photocopy and complete forms. None of this is, of course, made any easier by lockdown and social distancing.

     Asylum Guide

It has been Godfrey’s ambition to produce a diagrammatic guide to assist understanding of the processes of applying for ‘leave to remain.’ Now, with Tamba’s help, Asha has a guide in English, Arabic, Kurdish, Amharic, Tigrayan and Farsi.  It is so important that newcomers quickly understand on that they are a part of the process of applying for asylum and what they do on arrival may help or hinder their application.


Godfrey has been delivering training to the Good Things Foundation, the UK’s leading digital inclusion charity, to improve their capacity to deliver services to BME communities and men and women seeking asylum.

Asha wellbeing workers attended online training in FGM with Leyla Hussain of the Dahlia Project. Leyla, an FGM survivor, a powerful film which increased awareness of FGM and, more importantly, the confidence to talk about it. This has opened conversations with women and especially those from communities where this practice is still unfortunately not uncommon. As a result, many suffer gynecological problems throughout their lives because of what happened when they were a child and find it a relief to talk about it in confidence.


John (trustee and volunteer) is shielding and is assisting asylum seekers from home. Adnan, an Iraqi Kurd, has refugee status and lived in a housing association flat. Deeply troubled and distressed by constantly noisy neighours and forfeiting any sleep, he got in touch with John. John was able to speak to the housing association who, having refused Adnan a move, listened to his story and moved him to a quiet flat where he feels calmer and able to settle. 

Lydia continues to field enquiries which would formally have been addressed to the British Red Cross or Refugee Action.

Asha Post-Covid-19 September 2020

It is self-evident that Asha services will be curtailed for the foreseeable future. There has already been a mini lockdown in Stoke and there is every likelihood that there will be more. Meanwhile Asha is taking a cautious approach to opening a limited service.

This is our new reality. Our staff, who have necessarily had their own personal pre-occupations during the recent months, grieve the loss of the Asha ‘community’ which had become a beacon of good fellowship to many men, women and families seeking asylum.

Asha continues to offer:

Remote Support which has been a lifeline for families known to us.  A priority is finding those who are newly arrived or who have not made themselves known to us or us to them.

The Monday food delivery service continues, and we would be glad for more families to join the list.

Food Collection The number collecting food on Thursdays has risen but has not reached the pre-lockdown figure. 

Individual Support Various families and individuals has found their way to Asha and referrals have been received from local authorities and refugee charities.


Asha plans a step by step approach and shortly we hope to let you know what this means in practice.

Stoke main bannerThe Literacy Trust/Stoke Reads have donated a large selection of books with additions from B-Arts and Hanley Library.  Ryn organised four volunteers delivered to ___families.  

Story Quest Ryn, Jackie and Gill have received training from the Literacy Trust to deliver Story Quest, a free initiative funded by Sport England. A Story Quest is an exciting story trail that guides families around local outdoor spaces while they complete physical and written challenges, meet local celebrities, discover fascinating facts and travel through time to uncover local history. Jackie and Gill have made a start with several families. 

 Face Masks Asha is grateful to a Rode Heath Sewing Group who set up a Facebook page requesting the ladies to make a thousand face masks for our users. They achieved a grant total of 906 and they will make more if we need them.

Remembering Dabashish On 6 September last year, Godfrey received the harsh news from Dabashish’s brother that he had been killed. On our and your behalf, Godfrey will tell his family that we are holding him in our hearts and that many people in Stoke who will not forget him.


Imagine, a Refugee Week production by families who attend Asha’s weekly Saturday clubs (World Refugee Day 20 June 2020)

Determined not to leave Mums and children in limbo during lockdown, Asha swiftly decided to maintain contact by phone, text, and WhatsApp. Besides regular weekly calls, children are sent a story read by a member of staff and an uplifting song.  One song was Imagine, the theme of this year’s Refugee Week.  Adults and children were invited to create a drawing, painting or poem imagining a world beyond Covid-19. The result was a power-point presentation which was then produced as a film with music and sent to all Asha families on World Refugee Day.

To alleviate loneliness and isolation, apprehension and fear, Asha’s staff remain available to all asylum seekers in the City, for practical help and emotional support and as a conduit to Refugee Action. In addition, on Mondays’ families can request a home delivery service of food and on Thursdays’ callers can collect food laid out under a gazebo on the car park!

This week all our families will receive a carefully curated tablet, with a variety of programmes to engage the interest of children, facilitate online learning and, we hope,  help their parents to feel less like the odd-ones out, deprived of access to the technology which is fast becoming a necessity.

Asha could not do this alone.  What is being achieved would be impossible without the ongoing support of our donors and volunteers to whom we owe a Big thank you.

June 2020 update

A MESSAGE FROM KEVIN SAUNTRY, Chair of the Board of Trustees

Throughout this bulletin you can see the great work being carried out during this crisis, a crisis that has affected the way of life of us all. I felt it worth sharing with you the personal cost that comes with care and dedication for others’
Being faced with the dilemma that the commitment you want to give may also increase the risk  to the  life of your loved ones, hurts. That hurt brings a daily pressure which at times can be over-whelming, with our workers at times needing support and help to get through.

It is with no little pride and admiration that I tell you they have all continued to serve. Usually in this bulletin we would first be expressing our gratitude for the support and compassion you give as our supporters, support which is invaluable. Yet it felt appropriate at this time to let you know the issues and dilemmas created for the staff by this crisis. When you ask the workers what keeps them so committed, it is the scribbled notes of thanks, tears of gratitude plus the support they feel with the arrival of food and encouragement from our supporters.


At last, on the last day in May 50 tablets to provide remote digital support to families with children,

arrived. Not before time! You may recollect that Asha was seeking a bespoke service from a company which could offer security and protection and a financially viable service in the longer-term.  A suitable company was found, a contract prepared only for it to fall apart because the identified tablets could not be obtained from China! It proved easier said than done to find a company able to meet the number and specification of tablets Asha required.  Happily, the installation of programmes which are gender neutral, free of religious, cultural, violence or political bias are now being installed and by the time you read this distribution will have begun.

Through the good offices of Dr Ruth Chambers and Wavemaker, there will be training for staff and volunteers to deliver remote support and ensure the safe use of the tablets.

The trustees hope that in due course  Asha will be able to provide a tablet to all newly arrived families or at least to those who are most vulnerable, without any English, or with children with a disability or who have experienced especially severe hardship of one kind or another.

At present, without access to the internet or TV asylum seekers cannot keep up with the news about the changes in lockdown and are understandably nervous about what they can and cannot do. Jackie, Ryn and Gill spend a lot of time relaying government instructions as simply as possible. Tablets will bring our families into the mainstream and, we hope, alleviate many fears and misapprehensions.


If anyone thought staff would be putting their feet up with Asha closed, they are mistaken.  The Thursday Car Park Drop-in is seeing more people as more hear about the availability of food and the sunny weather made walking in from the far reaches of the City more agreeable. There have been new arrivals with complex and conflicting needs as well.

The number of families receiving home deliveries of food decreased slightly as Ryn made sure that all who qualified for a food voucher received one and was confident to use it. Referrals were received from schools, the City Council and from individual families. 

A gazebo now shelters the food table on the car park and provided much needed shade during May and will very probably offer an equally needed shelter from the rain very sooner.

Services during MayTotal%
 Telephone well-being support3913
Food delivered to families with children5920
Food distribution from Asha Car Park12242
Bicycles donated to the users114
Immigration issues135
Self-referred and telephone support4716

The number of services provided to children are not included.

Asylum Guide Project

Asylum Guides is a national programme funded by Comic Relief through Refugee Action who have selected Asha as one of their partners.  It  will introduce trained volunteers, asylum guides, to asylum seekers to help them to navigate the asylum journey,  understand how it works, their rights and options and  increase their resilience and develop local connections and a sense of belonging.

Asha is pleased to announce that Tamba Musa, a former reporter journalist refugee from Sierra Leone, who has completed immigration level 1 and 2 training with Refugee Action has been appointed project coordinator. Many already know Tamba as Asha’s social inclusion coordinator, a role which had got well underway until lockdown.

Asha’s Thursday Car Park  volunteers Kevin, Alison, Eva, Ruth , Ava, Barbara and Tamba , managed by Jane,  have settled into an efficient team and Lichfield Food Bank and contributions from Leek and when they have surplus, from Stoke and Newcastle food banks, Stafford’s House of Bread and donations from several faith groups as well as Tesco and Aldi have kept Asha well stocked and Period Poverty continues to supply sanitary and hygiene products.

The arrival of asylum seekers in Sandbach

Towards the end of May, Asha was alerted by East Cheshire Council to the arrival of 50 asylum seekers, including minors, in Sandbach.  Very soon local people known to Asha were in touch wanting to offer support, pointing out that the Chimney Pots Hotel where they had been accommodated, was on the outskirts of Sandbach and relatively isolated. Godfrey contacted Refugee Action and Asylum Matters and the latter contacted the Home Office pointing out that asylum seekers should onlt be dispersed to locations within reach of local facilities. Meanwhile Serco, the accommodation provider, agreed that the local people who had raised concern, were welcome to offer support within the constraints of the present situation. So far, the group have provided 50 hygiene bags with toiletries and some footballs, gifts of love made tangible!

Advice service

Godfrey has been talking with users on the car park and  Ana has also provided advice to service users in this way which gives rise to wondering if an open-air advice service is viable. So much remains uncertain but it is clear that face-to-face interviews are unlikely to be resumed any time soon.


Demand for bicycles has not lessoned because of lockdown and while Phil can provide them, Keita makes sure they are road-worthy and during the last week in May six were given out.

With the consent from their social workers, Keita is also providing weekly contact to two small groups of unaccompanied minors. This mainly consists of general chat, asking how they are feeling, delivering information about Covid-9 and liaising with their social worker if a need arises. 

Remote Working

Working remotely has its own challenges, not least coordinating staff. Counselling users whose English is poor quickly proved unproductive but emotional support was welcomed. Paula has stepped aside, and Jackie and Gill are coordinating their work providing help with practical matters and emotional support for women living on their own or with children in a home with few distractions for either.

Jackie comments: ‘Asha’s users are very resilient and accepting of quarantine but like us, they miss Asha and the community gatherings. While we have all missed family and friends over these past 12 weeks, it is sobering to remember that many Asha members have not seen their loved ones and friends for months or years. By necessity we had to move away from community group work and now work one-to-one via phone or WhatsApp. It is ironic that this is termed ‘remote working because we have actually got to know Asha members better through these personal conversations. As the weeks have progressed users now ring us for help or just to ask how we are and to chat, so it has really become a two-way interaction. It is salutary is to remember that Asha despite Asha’s efforts services at present are only touching minority of asylum seekers living in the City.’

It is rewarding to be able to deliver a fan to a woman recovering from an operation who did not feel secure with her ground floor room window open or to give a deckchair to a mother who had worked mightily to clear a small patch of backdoor garden and wanted to be able to sit in the sunshine. Another woman was pleased to receive some gardening books and to dream one day of having a garden. A young Mum was pleased to receive baby clothes, another newly arrived family to be linked to a community group who helped them to settle in.  Socially distanced conversations are becoming less awkward and in themselves build confidence.

Doorstep conversations sometimes reveal issues concerning mental health, safeguarding, housing and other matters which has led to productive liaison with other services like the Salvation Army, City Council, Citizen Advice, the Nappy Project, and mental health services.

Ryn is continues to keep an eye on families who are eligible for food vouchers to make sure they are successfully using them and she helped to sort out confusion which arose at half term when government funding for vouchers ceased only to be reinstated when there was an outcry.   Networks lead to informal referrals and Ryn has picked up newly arrived families and facilitated their children’s entry into school.

A teacher from Golden Hill School in Tunstall got in touch about a new, socially isolated family about whom she had concerns.  She was reassured to learn that the family was receiving regular food from Asha and that the father had called down to Asha on a Thursday morning.

Like Jackie and Gill, Ryn keeps in touch with Whatsapp, text and telephone. She commented that in some ways families themselves are leading the work.  A Whatsapp competition had families getting back in touch with questions and answers.


Staff are completing weekly logs to record their working week and how they prioritize their time and to demonstrate they are using it effectively.  A weekly Zoom meeting enables arising issues, concerns or ideas to be aired and recorded. This is invaluable.  It promotes shared learning, problem solving and teamwork which can so easily fragment when working alone and from home.

Black Lives Matter  Godfrey and Angela thought you might like to see this video clip.


During the last two months Asha has received £5380 in donations. The final cost of the tablets is £4284, less than the first estimate which offers the budget a little leeway for other unanticipated expenses resulting from Covid-19 and lockdown.

I hope it goes without saying how grateful Asha is for donations or food and money, both of which are tremendously supportive during this difficult time.


        Asha   has no means of storing or distributing these donations. We will let you know when normal business resumes.

Refugee Week 15-21 June

Unable to organize any special events to celebrate Refugee Week this year, Asha invites you to affirm your support for asylum seekers and refugees by:

  • Taking part in a variety of virtual activities on the Refugee Week website

  • Signing Freedom from Torture’s petition to increase asylum support which

        currently stands at £5.39 per day to rates in line with Universal Credit.

The West Midlands Strategic Migration Partnership

Has been collating information concerning coronavirus of relevance to asylum seekers, refugees, migrants and EU citizens in the West Midlands. You can find it on this website:

Godfrey and Jane send our volunteers, friends and supporters their warmest greetings and hope that the next Bulletin will begin to give some shape to Asha’s future service delivery.