A new teacher’s account of her first class 10 February 2020

(Men predominate in the English classes and this sidesteps learning around those things likely to matter most to women, hence a ‘women only’ group to be tutored by a young Muslim mother!) 

The tutor began with two women from Sudan and one from Morocco. Reporting on her first session, she commented “The students seemed very keen and we got on great. I planned for the beginners tefl class and it fitted perfectly with the ladies. We covered basics such as the alphabet, pronouncing, writing and naming things we use in everyday life.

I covered how to do self-introduction such as My name is, I am from, I am married, and I am X years old. We practiced what is termed Survival English, which covers matters like going to the doctors or the pharmacy or visiting a child’s school.  I then introduced numbers 1-5, how to use and recognize coins. We worked with 1p-5p’s and the different ways we could make 2p,3p 4p and 5p, so handy when going to the shops. We spoke English most of the time and when the ladies struggled to understand I knew  enough  Arabic to help them.

The students were given some simple homework and were eager for two lessons a week. At the moment, I will stick to one a week to see how we progress together.

Time To Talk Day 06/02/2020

Time to Talk Day is a national event taking place in work places, schools, community settings and homes.  Its a chance for us to talk about mental health and encourage friends, colleagues, neighbours and families to do the same.

At Asha we had a wellbeing awareness day.  Around 30 Asha members took part having conversations around wellbeing and mental health.  There was a positive vibe around the place with balloons, mandala colouring, Jackie’s crafts boxes, stress relief toys  and breathing techniques.

Stoke Sings at the Victoria Hall 25 January 2020

Prompted by Penny and gathered together by Jackie, twelve Asha users attended  joyful performances from a superb selection of Choirs from in and around Stoke-on-Trent. “We should be on the stage next year” commented one user!  Who would disagree? Singing is good for the soul and a welcome respite from the constrained everyday life of an asylum seeker.

New Vic Theatre 24 January 2020

Accompanied by Ryn and Jackie and with free tickets and a 70-seater coach paid for by Faz Shah, a musician performing at the New Vic, a medley of Asha children and parents, adult users and volunteers enjoyed a morning performance of ‘The Prince and the Pauper.’ 

A volunteer who attended with a couple seeking asylum and their daughter commented as follows:

‘What a treat to attend New Vic Theatre’s spectacular production of The Prince and the Pauper.  Laughter and amazement transformed many to a wonderful world of make believe.  Tudor history came alive via actors, acrobats, puppets, a dancing horse, musicians and singing – all with energy and grace.  An added unexpected and most welcome surprise was the distribution of sweets and a drink during the half-time interval.  Thank you Asha and to everyone who facilitated this splendid event.’

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.