Offering sanctuary to traumatised individuals

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Arriving in a new city, in a new country, and learning a new language are just three of the challenges Siddiq and Sabir faced when they arrived in Bristol. A grant we made to Bristol Hospitality Network for £14,500 through a New Beginnings grant helped them provide welcome centres for Siddiq, Sabir and their fellow asylum seekers and refugees in Bristol.

Siddig and Sabir are young people from Sudan (18 and 17 years old), who attend both welcome centres. When Siddiq first arrived in November 2017, he was very quiet and nervous. However, in the past few months he has transformed; he has been learning English at college and supplementing with English classes at Borderlands and BHN. At Borderlands, he has made new friendships with others his own age, from other countries as well as fellow Sudanese young people, including with Sabir. He has come out of his shell and is a new and valued member of both communities. Siddiq himself says ‘I coming here to learn English – I don’t have college. It’s helped with my English. It’s feeling good.”

Sabir is 17 from Sudan. Sabir was quite depressed when he first came, because there was (and still isn’t) space for him in college. Having the English classes at BHN and Borderlands is helping fill the gap until a place becomes available in September, and the possibility to volunteer seems to have given Sabir a lot of pride. He is visibly much happier and more confident. He said “I’m coming here to learn English and meet new people and volunteering. It helped me too much because when I came here I didn’t speak English, now I speak English very well. It’s good to working volunteering, I’m happy to volunteering. And I made a lot of new friends.”

When asked if they wanted to say anything to Quartet Sabir and Siddiq said: “We need to tell them thank you”.

The welcome centres act like a hub where many other services can be offered (Job search, CV writing, hate crime services, HIV support, health liaison, counselling, trauma care, herbal medicine, opportunities to volunteer and ‘give something back’ and ESOL and advocacy services) and offer a welcome against a backdrop of increased hate crime and misunderstanding about asylum seekers.

The grant covered two hot lunches a week and meant the welcome centres could also provide ESOL classes two days a week, hardship support systems for 30-40 destitute members a week, free barber shop, free herbal healthcare, advice on job search, CV writing, Hate Crime and much more.

This joint project also supported BHN and Borderlands to work together to develop what they could offer local refugees and asylum seekers. The funding helped them share expertise and skills such as advocacy and volunteer management. The grant also provided training including First Aid, Resilience and Vicarious Trauma.