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As part of our first edition, we had an opportunity to have a chat with our coordinator Mehrun Ahmed about one of our successful programmes “Belonging Group” that mainly focuses on working with ‘Refugees and Asylum seekers’
Q:Could you please share with our readers about the vision of the ‘Belonging Group’ and when it was started?
The Belonging group is central to FURDs (Football Unites-Racism Divides) work with Refugees and Asylum seekers. This was made possible in 2013 through the funding from the Big Lottery Research project. The main objective of the program is to help Refuge and Asylum seekers in the Sheffield area to integrate into new local communities and feel a sense of belonging. We deliver two sessions per week, on Wednesdays we have men’s football sessions and women have health and well-being sessions as well as have an opportunity to play football. On Fridays we have a social club at the end of each session and there is a lunch arranged for the participants.
Q:Tell us more about the Men’s Football session.
Foremost, it’s very important for us as a community to understand the background of refugees and asylum seekers and their plight. They move into an uncharted territory of their life, where there is lack of personal identity, cultural and language barriers which prevail as a big threat for them to integrate into the community. This makes it difficult for them to adapt to this new environment. In addition, poor physical and mental health, difficulties in communication skills and lack of regular income. Individuals may find it difficult to get a job due to lack of relevant skills or in some cases they might not be able to legally work. All these factors have a direct impact on their confidence and self-esteem.
Our Belonging Football sessions have been a vital tool in breaking the chain of isolation and bring in a sense of belonging. A game of football brings in social interaction and people can get easily connected. We give each individual a safe space where they feel welcomed and are able to access leisure and sports activities, friendship, and a healthy free meal suitable for people of all cultural backgrounds. We provide them with a safe environment and same opportunities for the established communities and an opportunity to be themselves without being labelled. This has many positive outcomes for them as individuals and for the wider society.
Q:How do you follow-up each of these individuals that you are connected with through this football program?
There is a lack of recreation in their normal life so we keep involving them by giving an opportunity to turn up and play football in a supportive environment necessary for some Refugees and Asylum Seekers to feel comfortable. To take a step further, once they get involved into regular football sessions we provide football coaching with the aim of setting up a football team. As mentioned earlier they have all had a hard exile from their home so we need to give them space to share their stories and we also provide counselling session through our workers. If appropriate, we link them with like-minded organisations and partners to help if they face any other issues. We provide them with an opportunity to volunteer with FURD and also with other organisations and this a simple step to help them gain their confidence and have purpose to their normal day.
Q:How can someone who is reading this article help or get involved in your work?
Volunteer: If anyone wants to invest their time, the best way forward is to help us with our sessions which happens on Wednesdays and Thursdays. You don’t have to have any specific skill set, just an interest in people and building friendships.
Donate Food: Thanks to Fareshare, their partners Tesco and Asda have been supporting us by donating surplus food for our social gatherings. We would like more people to donate surplus food or sponsor for cooking some food for our sessions.
Raise Awareness and Conduct campaigns: We would like our local community to know more about Refugee and Asylum Seekers and support our work. We need to raise awareness and provide information about the struggles that Refugee and Asylum Seekers face in their lives. Our support workers are willing to host sessions at your office or community gatherings to raise the profile.
Use our facilities: We manage the U- Mix centre at Asline Road on behalf of Sheffield City Council. We have many different facilities that people can use which helps to support our program.