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 the British Red Cross or 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.

Tablets

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.

Services

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
Total291100

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!

The British Red Cross

 Asylum seekers can ring or text the BRC and Lydia remains a conduit for them to and from the BRC.  Ana from the BRC commented to Jane that most organisations had discontinued their services and that she knew how grateful Asha’s users were for the food distribution and for Asha still being there for them.

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.

Bicycles

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.

Administration

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

https://www.facebook.com/100000893304818/posts/3252707591435652/?sfnsn=scwspmo&extid=SnV08aL8JnfE9Lm0&d=n&vh=i  Godfrey and Angela thought you might like to see this video clip.

Donations

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.

        PLEASE DO NOT DONATE CLOTHING, BED LINEN OR BRIC-A-BRAC AT PRESENT.   

        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  

https://refugeeweek.org.uk/

  • 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.

Freedomfromtorture.org/news/joint-letter-on-increasing-asylum-support-rates-in-response-to-the-covid-19-crisis

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: https://www.wmsmp.org.uk/covid-19-resources-and-guidance/

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.

To: VOLUNTEERS AND SUPPORTERS From: Jane Bailey, Deputy Manager 13th May 2020

We hope that everyone is well and staying as safe as possible. We would like to assure you that whilst we may not be together we are continuing to provide support to our asylum seekers in the best way possible and we are thankful for the ongoing support of our volunteers, both practical and remote. The management team are in regular contact with the chair and trustees and are continually monitoring the government advice and guidelines to ensure 1. we are operating in a safe and responsible way 2. we are providing the best possible support to our service users within those constraints.

It is vital that we regularly review our operational policies and procedures and adjust wherever necessary and that we also continue to listen to the needs of our asylum seekers and make the necessary changes to meet those needs. We have discussed the recent government announcements and have concluded that at this current time we will not be making any adjustments to our operational structure. Our top priority remains the health and safety of our service users, volunteers and staff. To clarify, the safety measures we have in place and way we have been operating will remain the same.

We will continue to keep up to date with the government guidelines and review our own policies to ensure we adhere to these. You will all be notified of any changes.

Take care and stay safe. Kind Regards, Jane

GARDEN EQUIPMENT

A single Mum with refugee status wants to make her garden accessible for her two children.

 She needs secateurs, a manual hedge cutter, spade and fork and some grass seed.  If you can help, please contact Jane. Another Mum needs a lawn mower if there is one out there that nobody wants!

Thank you.

SURVIVING LOCKDOWN The centre may be closed but Asha’s staff remain hard at work! – 5th May 2020

Organising home delivery of food for families and single parents is a priority.  Deliveries take place on Monday and Thursday and on Thursdays food is given to whoever calls at the centre between 10.30 and 12.30.

Asha continues to receive food from regular donors and from Tesco and Aldi.  Maureen obtained a good supply from Leek Food Bank and Godfrey collected from Keele University. Lichfield Food Bank was unable to provide food but generously sent a financial donation and Stoke Food Bank has also contributed some food.

Sporting Communities successfully applied to the Community Foundation to support ongoing work with ASHA and have been granted £1000 to go towards supplying food and resources for children during lockdown.

Meanwhile Asha has bought stock when it is needed and is able to so because of the generosity of donors and from savings which supported discontinued services.

TABLETS

Asha’s appeal for tablets produced an immediate response for which we are grateful. However, it quickly became obvious that it was not enough to merely give a family a tablet.  Kevin explains why:  

‘This is an exciting service which will be highly effective long after the present crises. It is vitally important to ensure that the service to children is free from exploitation, threats, scams and inappropriate programmes. We therefore decided on a bespoke service with the phone company who are proving helpful. The financial aspect of use and payment of that each tablet will be monitored to ensure the service stays financially sustainable and there is no automatic cut off. A monthly record of use will enable the company to notify any concerns. This level of security and protection is vital when providing children with IT equipment. Additional protection is also required when equipment like this may be seen as high currency by people on a low income in poor housing.  A family can so easily become at risk of threats and theft so the tablets will be visually marked as the property of Asha to reduce their resale value.

‘Asha is following government guidelines and setting out a code of ethics to make sure the content on the tablets meets the specific needs of children and young people. The aim is to stimulate, inspire and motivate, to build confidence and self-worth. To this end Asha will strive to ensure the activities and programs are free of the following:  gender bias, violence and stories that have value judgements threaded through them.

‘It has taken time to reach this point but there are no short cuts and Asha is committed in the long term to high standards which are as safe as is humanly possible.’  

Asha is particularly appreciative of several significant donations towards the cost £8300 for tablets.  A 10-inch Android tablet, a Sim card with an unlimited internet bundle, tablet cases and internet for an additional three month’s costs £116 each.

Fifty of Asha’s most needy families will receive a tablet and internet connection.

REMOTE SUPPORT

Families and Children

As soon as lockdown began ways to support families and single parents was a priority.

At first time was spent talking with women about what they could and could not do.  Communicating was difficult and Asha’s families do not have television, radio or internet and quite often no credit on their phones.

Some women were wary of going shopping or for a walk, especially with children, and some still are.   They were fearful of doing something wrong, meeting a policeman or catching the virus. Initially, not all responded to phone calls, but others phoned to ask how we were and to have a chat when ‘things got a bit much’.

Asha’s users are resilient, they have been through worse, and at present they don’t have the pressure from the Home Office concerning their application for asylum which makes their present situation easier to accept

Women who live in a hostel and spend most of their time isolated in their own rooms, now get together on Thursdays to applaud the NHS; the first week no-one else joined in, the second week they did!

Well-being resources have been posted online and on Asha’s Facebook and under the Activities tab on the Asha website.  Simple breathing exercises, lavender bag making packs and knitting supplies offer some respite for women who are accessible, and one received a bicycle to ride in the park.

Books were delivered to a breast-feeding mum who cannot get out, support was offered to another who needed an emergency operation, and consolation to one who was grief stricken because their friend in London had died of the virus.

WhatsApp, text, and Google translate proved especially useful.  Regular, almost daily, contact now takes place with 43 families and less regularly with an additional 20. These are families with refugee status or who have a support network. Initially the focus was on the welfare of the children, finding out what, if any IT support was available. Generally, it was only one mobile phone and very often there might be two or three siblings were trying to use one phone for their homework.

Weekly WhatsApp messages are used to share songs and stories as well as key information and advice on lockdown and related matters.

The government’s announcement on 22 April of IT support for students is limited to children in care or identified as vulnerable or Year 10 students so few of Asha’s children quality.

Some schools have been more sensitive than others to the constraints on children of asylum seekers learning at home with no access to online educational resources.      Prior to the Easter Holidays and with no specific funding or legal obligation some schools offered support using reserves or drawing from a pot of funding intended for something else.

Free food vouchers

The free food voucher scheme presented an immediate problem insofar that applicants were invited to apply online and on receipt of an email to print it off for the bar code to be checked at a supermarket till.  Without a printer, families showed the bar code on their phone, only to have this rejected, and be sent away empty handed. Several families sent messages saying, “We have given up, we will manage with donations from Asha.” It is reported that 96% of surveyed head teachers and school business leaders say the lockdown free-school meal scheme is ‘not working properly.’ (4 May). Asha worked tirelessly to make sure our families received vouchers and by then most and 60 parents were asked as part of the weekly WhatsApp to get in touch if they still had problems. Those without WhatsApp were contacted individually. Three newly arrived families have not yet received vouchers, and this being pursued. A positive outcome has been the development of mutual understanding and cooperation between Asha and schools attended by our children.  Thanks, too, to the asylum seekers and refugees who have helped interpreting.

British Red Cross and Refugee Action

Lydiaremains engaged with British Red Cross current and new cases and she spends a better part of her hours on the phone, providing advice on refused appeals, claiming Section 4 or universal credit as well as providing letters of support. There are regular online BRC staff meetings and she is also a conduit for any issues referred by Refugee Action. Lydia is also a primary link with families needing food.

Unaccompanied children

Keitahas been working with two groups of unaccompanied minors which involves phone contact and messaging, just to ensure they are coping. Bicycles are always in high demand and he has been able to repair and distribute several.

MANAGEMENT

Working from home has been a challenge for Godfrey and Jane. Jane comments: ‘The influx of emails due to us all working remotely has been phenomenal!’ Zoom meetings are now making it easier for Godfrey and Jane supported by Kevin, to coordinate the ongoing work and ensure that a united approach is maintained to avoid fragmentation.

Besides keeping Asha operational and liaising with Refugee Action, Godfrey has completed the 2018-2019 annual report and Jane the annual statement of accounts which have been submitted to the Charity Commission and to VAST.

SERVICES  30 March to 30 April 2020

The table below details emergency servicesfor adultsonly

Services  Numbers
Telephone wellbeing support  71
Food distribution  167
Hours of telephone counselling  19
Home food delivery  58
Immigration advice  11
Total  326

Godfrey is pleased to report that between September 2019 and April 2020, Asha had contact with and/or supported 1000 asylum seekers, including children, easily exceeding the target set for the year.

Asha took part in national research organized by Refugee Action to assess the impact of COVID-19 and lockdown on services to asylum seekers and refugees and on their wellbeing. It is self-evident that a review of services and their delivery will be necessary when anything like normal services can resume. In the meantime, Asha is benefitting from regular network meetings with over 64 organizations who now share the experience of lockdown and what can be learned from it.

A copy of the research, Covid-19 Information and Data Hub Bulletin 1 May 2020, can be found on the Asha website: www.asha-uk.org

BANK Asha has moved from HSBC to the

 Cooperative Bank Account No. 65893469 Sort Code 08-92-99

SURVIVING LOCKDOWN

John writes: I am one of those who are designated a vulnerable over 70 or so the medical people tell me.  I suppose having just 5% of my major bowel qualifies!  They say that I must stay at home for 12 weeks.  It sounds like a prison sentence.  But it really makes me think about all those asylum seekers who are in detention and are sick with worry about their future.  Anyway, I miss ASHA and the whole side of social life.  Luckily enough, I have Anne here.  She is working from home and keeping an eye on me so that I do not escape!  Obviously, I am longing for the day when we can get back to some kind of normality.  My thoughts and prayers are with the whole ASHA Community.

Angela is experiencing lockdown as a useful rehearsal for full retirement!  She owns to a growing acceptance that she needs to step back but for the moment she is keeping a foot in the door, collecting food from Lidl and Tesco once a week. Otherwise, like everyone else, she is fulfilling tasks which have lurked out of sight for a long time.

A BIG THANK-YOU TO VOLUNTEERS AND DONORS

 A special ‘thank you’ to volunteers who have bagged rice, bottled oil, sorted food parcels and made deliveries. Asha could not have done without you. They are a small group and some wishing to help have been turned away. This is not because there is nothing to do but because more people operating in a relatively small space would make it impossible to maintain responsible social distancing.

An equally special ‘thank you’ to all who have ‘kept the faith’ and continue to donate food and money.

Members of Trinity Church Leek responding to an article Maureen wrote, have donated over £800 and counting!  Members are also delivering food to Maureen’s porch which Kevin can then collect. Asha. Boundary Road Methodist Church has contributed soap in addition to milk, as a cursory check just before lockdown revealed that a significant number did not have any.

In addition to individual donations, we are grateful to the East Midlands Railway Community Fund for £500 to purchase four tablets. Asha expects some asylum seekers to become railway volunteers when circumstances allow.    

Thank you, Period Powerfor your regular support and for the toothpaste, shower gel and nappies which you included in the second delivery of sanitary products.

A season of loneliness and isolation is when a caterpillar gets its wings.  Remember that the next time you are lonely.’ Mandy Hall

END

Together We Can Make a Difference By donating to Asha, you can show our users that they may be out of sight, but they are not out of mind. We care. 29th March 2020

We need money to sustain our food distribution service.
Asha remains a hive of activity but from homes and twice a week from the car park which, observing all the proper protocols, becomes a food distribution centre! Twenty-three users were given food on Monday and 19 on Thursday.
Lydia received a desperate call from a newly arrived family from Ecuador and volunteer Kevin was able to leave them a parcel of food on his way home. They later rang to say thank you. Alina from Russia was on the doorstep holding a flyer about Asha. Her card had been blocked. She spoke no English, so she was connected to Kirill who talked her through what to do next. She left Asha with enough food to keep her and husband Sergei going while their card was activated.
Staff are telephoning and texting our users and especially families and Mums with children mindful that none have televisions or radios. Many are apprehensive about going out and being stopped by a policeman or have not fully understood that they should not go out. Either way it is hard for the majority to come into Asha, so Godfrey is working on an alternative way of getting food to those who need it.
We would like to purchase a tablet for our most vulnerable families so they could email and see the news and their children play games, read books and watch online videos.
Local volunteers, who can do so, have been helping and a small pool of asylum seekers are on the way to becoming key workers. Keeping their distance but sharing in a common endeavour is a joyful experience and one which, I’m sure, will be cherished in the coming days.
Lydia is working with the British Red Cross on ways to continue support for destitute asylum seekers. Users who need to speak to Refugee Action can do so on 0121-201-3090 and Lydia is on hand to facilitate contact with the Red Cross and Refugee Action. Her number is 07914117449. Some users have received letters from the Home Office telling them not to report to Dallas Court in Salford suggesting that any action on their status is currently suspended.
Asha is in it for the long haul. We’ll keep you posted.
Stay well and best wishes, Kevin, Godfrey, Jane, John and Angela You may donate by sending a cheque payable to Asha North Staffordshire or by BACS A/c 21848526. Sort Code 40-23-07. Gift Aid forms can be downloaded from our website: www.asha-uk.org THANK YOU

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE

It was with a heavy heart that Asha bowed to the inevitable and closed except for two hours a day on two days a week.

This is so the 100+ men, women and families who call each week for food can continue to do so.

At present Asha has not been able to buy-in supplies but we hope when panic buying eases, we will be able to do so. We are determined to offer this most practical support and signifier that we care to our users for as long as possible.

Already Asha supporters have shown they care and have begun to donate money as well as food. We can use both!


Food can most easily be delivered to the porch of
32 Dartmouth Avenue, Newcastle ST5 3NY

This will maintain the distance we are being asked to keep from one another.

For details of ways to donate, please log on www.asha-uk.org

THANK YOU


SOCIAL ISOLATION and REMOTE SUPPORT

We worry about parents with children especially single Mums and women on their own. For these, the Women and Children groups are the highlight of the week. Friendships are formed and mutual help and support comes to the fore. Loneliness is alleviated and social isolation lessened. Football performs a similar function for young me, offering a semblance of normality and a relief from stress.

During the weeks ahead, Asha will seek to phone our users to reassure them that they are not forgotten, and that Asha remains there for them.

VOLUNTEERS

Our volunteers are telling us that they are as bereft as we are. Getting to know people from different parts of the world, doing whatever we can to ‘make a difference,’ is enriching. To suddenly be torn away from welcoming newcomers and from sharing the time of day with those we are accustomed to seeing most weeks, is wretched.

Please keep us and our users in your mind’s eye.

Godfrey, Jane, Lydia, John, Angela, Ryn, Jackie, Paula, Gill, Keita and Tamba

International Women’s Day Celebration in Hanley, Saturday March 7th 2020

Women, men and children from across the world came together to celebrate International Women’s Day at an event hosted by Asha.

The women enjoyed relaxation workshops, yoga, hand massages and henna hand-painting, while children decorated a plant-pot, designed a kite and drew pictures of inspirational women in their lives at the RVS in Hanley.

Guest speaker Toyin Higgs, the Football Association’s City Partnership Development Officer for UEFA Women’s Euro 2021, spoke how women in sport were helping to fly the flag for equality, and how she herself, as first generation British, knew the importance of working for a more equal society.

Stoke Central MP Jo Gideon spent two hours at the event talking with people and getting to know about the experiences of asylum seekers and what they would like to see changed for the better. She said her case workers could come to Asha to help people with their concerns.

The Asha team of drummers got the music and dancing started and played a mix of African and Afghan tunes which had everyone on their feet. Rebecca and Kate from B’Arts provided the children’s activities and Amanda and Morgan from Fenton Environmental Community Cluster asked people to write an inspirational word on material hearts which will then be embroidered and made into a quilt.

Jackie Gregory, Asha’s women’s wellbeing worker, said: “Our city is now home for many women who have made journeys of a lifetime, who are resilient and talented, making friends and contributing to the community. We thought International Women’s Day was an ideal day to celebrate this and thank all the Asha volunteers who helped to make it a memorable day, and thank everyone for coming and taking part.”

  International Women’s Day is officially held on March 8 each year. It’s a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women – while also making a call to action to accelerate gender equality.

Community Safety for Asylum Seekers 28 February 2020

Introduced and facilitated by Godefroid, fifteen Asha users divided into two groups and were asked to identify acceptable and unacceptable behaviour ‘back home’ contrast this with what may be acceptable or unacceptable here in the UK.  Alcohol and drunkenness, sexual consent, rape, grooming and touching as well as sexual identity and trans gender issues were instanced as areas of behaviour which aroused some uncertainty.  When the session ended, users continued to ask questions and to discuss the various topics. All agreed that they felt better informed and more confident than before.

Tamba Musa, who convened the session commented, “Community learning is creating a very positive impact on the lives of service users. The frequency of their being involved in crime is presently low and being well informed should keep it that way.”

Drummers delight at Leek Concert Saturday 7 March 2020

Trinity Church Leek has long been a supporter of Asha and was delighted to invite our African drummer friends to contribute to a concert in aid of Act21, a local charity which provides services for young people in the area. Their playing and singing was enthusiastically received and resulted in an impromptu session with one of the choirs during the interval. As Tamba, one of the drummers, commented, “We are very pleased to join you and give something back to a community which continues to support us”.

A member of the audience, also a newcomer, said “Everyone really enjoyed the Extravaganza on Saturday, especially the Asha drummers, they were brilliant!”

ESOL training event success 26 February 2020

Keele Language Centre, in conjunction with ASHA North Staffordshire, successfully hosted an ESOL training event on Thursday 20 February 2020 led by John Sutter, Director of Learning Unlimited (specialist in ESOL/ELT and Literacy Education) and funded by the Education and Training Foundation.

The event was well attended with representation from a majority of the local ESOL providers, including Stoke on Trent College, Sanctus, ASHA North Staffordshire, Harper Adams, Keele’s Trinity CertTESOL students, and language training staff.

The focus was on the crossover area between Literacy and A0 Beginner English, a field which is currently undergoing a significant amount of research.

https://www.keele.ac.uk/study/languagecentre/ , including information on how staff can get involved in learning a new language. 

Dr Barbara Enid James

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