We visit refugees and asylum seekers where they live. This is an effective way to identify issues, especially where the most vulnerable and isolated are concerned.
A member of Asha’s staff (accompanied by an asylum volunteer) will make around four home visits each week to meet new arrivals. They may be encouraged to attend one of our activities, be referred to another service or even offered the opportunity to help others by becoming volunteers themselves.
Asha launched its befriending project in 2018 as part of its outreach services to those seeking asylum.
That can be a long, difficult process – and being befriended by someone from the local community can play a pivotal role in the asylum seeker’s journey.
We are building a team of volunteers to offer consistent, compassionate support and encouragement – through listening, conversational English and signposting to other services. All volunteers are given training and ongoing support.
One of our clients said: “Befrienders are excellent at providing the invisible things – showing you around, providing company and giving you the feeling of a normal life.”
While waiting to know if their application for asylum is successful, only those on a short list of prescribed occupations are allowed to work. Many wait months or even years condemned to idleness and inactivity.
This is why Asha is developing a volunteering programme. Currently, asylum seekers are giving their time and skills in hospitals, hospices, care homes, charity shops, food banks, schools, the RVS and YMCA, No 11 (catering in a homeless people’s drop-in), B Arts, South West Peak, the British Red Cross and the list is growing.
Volunteering enables asylum seekers to contribute to their new community and helps to break down stereotypes of asylum seekers here to claim benefits. One asylum seeker commented that his volunteering day was the only day in the week when he felt ‘properly human again’.
Please get in touch if you would like to offer an asylum seeker an opportunity to work voluntarily for your organisation or charity.
We offer a range of services at our Hanley Business Park headquarters…
We began by collecting food to give asylum seekers a little extra at Christmas – but before long, they were looking to Asha for help every week.
Living on a limited income of £5.39 a day for an adult, the smallest crisis can leave an asylum seeker without cash.
A growing circle of faith groups, other organisations and individuals supports us by donating food. No-one in need is turned away, although there are occasions when stocks become perilously low.
Newcastle-under-Lyme and Lichfield food banks give Asha food when they have a surplus and Tesco Fair Share Community Food Connection donates day-old bakery products three times a week – sometimes, it can also include eggs, vegetables and even flowers.
We like to have a variety of good quality clothing for asylum seekers who are newly-arrived and for others who may have very little. Surplus items are donated to a local hospice.
Good shoes are also in demand especially in winter, when too often an asylum seeker only has a pair of worn and leaky trainers. On average, we give out between 150 and 200 items of clothing a week.
We can always find a good home for household items such as bedding and linen, saucepans, kettles and toaster. Donations which Asha cannot use are taken to the Douglas Macmillan Hospice in Hanford so nothing is wasted. It is important, however, to stress that Asha only needs good quality clothing, shoes, linen and kitchen equipment.
Asha Support Worker Lydia Mugoyikaze is a qualified British Red Cross Support Worker and can assist by advocating with the Department of Work and Pensions on behalf of asylum seekers.
Most of Asha’s users live in outlying neighbourhoods and have no money for transport. We raise money so that mothers and children can attend our clubs for women and children. This lessens their social isolation.
Asha has an emergency fund for special payments such as helping with train tickets or buying nappies.
It is Asha’s donors who sustain these funds. If you’d like to help, please click here.
Most asylum seekers are unfamiliar with the internet and using email, yet this is often an immigration advisor’s primary means of communication. It is important that asylum seekers remain in contact with their advisor and Asha is able to help an asylum seeker become familiarised with email and the internet. Children also enjoy using computers at our children’s club. We welcome donations of working computers.
We collect donated bicycles and asylum seekers refurbish these to make them roadworthy before they are given to an asylum seeker. The gift of mobility is deeply valued and there is always a waiting list.
Every cyclist should have a crash helmet and a padlock, so please donate these as well if you have them.
Every day, we deal with many people looking for support and advice. Some may have complex needs, others may merely wish to speak to a friendly person. Whatever the need, we will do our utmost to offer effective support. Here a just a few examples of how we have helped.
Escape from Iraq
A family with two children came to Asha after living in the Calais ‘Jungle’ refugee camp.
Originally from Iraq, the family lived in an ISIS-controlled village. Their older family members were killed when they refused to help the terror group to bomb local villages, the family managed to escape and make their way to Calais, eventually arriving in the UK.
The Home Office ‘dispersed’ them to Stoke-on-Trent and they found their way to Asha, who conducted an assessment of their emergency needs. None of the family spoke English – they were fearful of everybody and their children traumatised.
The children joined Asha’s Children’s Club to develop their self-esteem and confidence, and to make friends. Their parents joined one of Asha’s English classes.
We helped get the boys into school and six months on, they were interacting with others and making friends. Their parents felt happier, less isolated and – most importantly – safe.
Nowhere to go
An asylum seeker from Iraq, living in Home Office-supported housing in Stoke, was arrested and placed in detention.
A month later he was released and instructed to return to his former accommodation. However, when he arrived there, the Home Office refused to admit him.
After living on the streets, he came to Asha – tired, unshaven and extremely hungry. We gave him food and – thanks to a volunteer who was a barber in his home country – a haircut.
The man was given a small amount of money to feed himself during the evening and we managed to find him accommodation for the night. His solicitor was contacted to get him into the system, and he is currently awaiting interview.
Forging a new life
A refugee who had been a victim of female genital mutilation (FGM) contacted us. She had become homeless during the transitional period between being given ‘leave to remain’ and being able to claim support as a refugee.
She had low self-esteem and confidence, and was unsure of her entitlements and where to seek help.
We helped her to obtain emergency accommodation and referred her to our Women’s Club and English classes. She began involving herself in activities and eventually became an FGM Peer Volunteer Supporter.
As her self-esteem and confidence grew, she learned how to cope with her past experience of sexual abuse and started an access course which would help her to go to university. She is currently finishing college and has a part-time job.