Anastasia Vikhanova, Sarah Dexter, Jack Varley, Maureen Murray, Shalini Mehta, Bethan Robinson and Lucy Huzzard, Ali Bird and Courtenay Bes-Green, Jayne Shipley, Liz Watson and Fatbardha Imeri
Anastasia Vikhanova – Online pre-tenancy Private Rented Scheme (PRS) training
Pre-tenancy training is one of the essential components of PRS support, it is a compulsory component for clients, and it provides them with knowledge of the UK housing market which will benefit them when they are seeking future accommodation. During the coronavirus, the training sessions were unable to take place, but the volunteers had found that clients had struggled to attend the in-person sessions before lockdown due to other appointments. Moving the training online would provide more flexibility for the sessions and allow clients to complete the course in their own time in a way that is convenient for them. It would also allow for clients to refresh their knowledge as and when they need it and allow the volunteers to keep track of their progress and answer any questions that the clients may have. Once set up, the project could be extended to other clients across the Refugee Council who need support with housing. The Award will be used for all set up costs and for reimbursing the volunteers who take part in delivering the service, with any remaining funds being put towards supporting clients with a lack of internet availability to enable them to activate the service.
Sarah Dexter – Whiteboards for home learning
Sarah teaches intermediate English to students, which she has had to do online throughout lockdown, instead of in the actual classroom at the Refugee Council building in Croydon. Although online teaching has been successful it has come with additional challenges, one being that it has been hard for Sarah to match the progress normally seen in writing skills in the actual classroom as seeing what students have written on paper over Zoom can be difficult. Sarah would like to provide a whiteboard and whiteboard marker to each student participating in the online English and Maths classes, around 25 students in total. The boards will be sent directly to the students at home and they would be used in their daily lessons with their teachers.
Jack Varley – Collaborative Mosaic
The art of creating a mosaic is accessible to all, including low level English speakers as art crosses all barriers. This project revolves around the relationship between clients and volunteers and during the coronavirus outbreak the volunteers have adapted their role to remotely support students with their homework while schools have been closed. Working remotely has presented several new challenges, including the technical aspect of clients and their families being able to access the work. It can be challenging for clients to open up and trust volunteers and while social distancing has meant that volunteers and clients can’t meet in person, they have continued their work online and provided help and support to clients no matter what their issues were. Completing the mosaic will provide a morale boost to everyone involved and will provide a long lasting benefit to the Refugee Council and the local community as a whole. As serious as the struggle has been in adjusting to the life during the pandemic, perhaps the most positive factor has been the artwork produced, from street art to a child’s drawing. This mosaic will be an opportunity for the Refugee Council to contribute to that legacy. The Award will allow for the purchase, distribution and creation of the supplies needed to create a collaborative mosaic which will be a practical and cost-effective way to help foster the vital bonds between clients and volunteers.
Maureen Murray – English for Refugees
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Maureen and her team are not able to meet their clients in person to teach or help them improve their English. With clients who have such little proficiency in the language, effective online interaction can be difficult for both the teacher and the learner. They would like to provide volunteers and clients with printed resources to work through together, namely the course and practice books called “English for Everyone”. The project is aimed at refugees who have very limited use of English, and so helping them to improve this is vital in enabling them to settle into the community and start their life in the UK. The Award would enable the purchase and distribution of sufficient copies of the books to facilitate the remote teaching of English and ensure a greater degree of consistency while lessons are taking place remotely.
Shalini Mehta – Health Access for Refugees Programme (HARP)
As an art therapy volunteer with HARP, Shalini found it challenging to get people to connect online via Zoom and provide art packs to them. Prior to lockdown, she was supporting asylum seekers in their initial accommodation through art therapy and this proved challenging throughout lockdown. She would use the Award to create art packs with good art supplies to try and engage more with clients. The Award would help the project to function better and be made accessible to more people, as the project will be able to provide art supplies to be used in the weekly art therapy sessions.
Bethan Robinson and Lucy Huzzard – Allotment Group
The group began in 2018 to meet the needs of both mental and physical wellbeing and promote the importance of a healthy lifestyle. Clients benefit greatly from social and therapeutic horticulture – sowing seeds, nurturing them, watching them grow and eventually harvesting them is greatly beneficial. It gives people something to look forward to and it increases self-confidence. Lockdown meant that all activities on the allotment had to come to an end but now that restrictions are lifting, the volunteers are able to maintain the crops and begin to welcome families back one at a time. There is a real demand from clients to be back on the allotment, after being stuck at home for weeks on end with no outside space. The Award would be used to aid safe working on the site, including buying additional tools and an activity table for clients to use for craft activities. The Award would help the project make the move from lockdown back into a carefully managed outdoor activity.
Ali Bird and Courtenay Bes-Green – Children’s Online Art Group
The group began in February 2020 as a weekly drop-in session and was a well-attended, positive group. When lockdown happened, the group moved online and classes for clients were run on Zoom, however they soon realised there was an issue with working with families with little or no resources. To enable the class to continue, the volunteers have been lending out arts supplies so that clients can take part, however they would use the Award to provide clients with resources that they could keep and a wider range of materials. The children in the class are not currently attending school, and so the art classes are not only inspiring them creatively but they are expanding their vocabulary and learning new techniques which will be of great benefit to them when they do start school. They are hoping to grow the group in time to come, and they will be able to use the Award to purchase enough arts supplies to make this possible. The resources will be used in the weekly online classes and the children will also be given additional materials that they can complete in their own time.
Jayne Shipley – North Yorkshire Women’s Group
The women in this group are from rural areas and small towns in North Yorkshire where there is no Syrian community for them to connect to at the moment. Whilst they have been welcomed by their new communities, they do not have a strong peer group which has resulted in some of them feeling even more isolated during lockdown. The Women’s Group is running via WhatsApp and Zoom and its main purpose is to help the ladies link up with each other and offers companionship. Although this is a relatively new group, the women are already supportive of each other and the core group are encouraging new members to join. The ladies in the group are realising that they are lacking in opportunities to practice their English, which is something that they all want to progress with. They have been using the Zoom chats to learn new vocabulary around topics that they are familiar with and feel confident talking about. The women are encouraged by the volunteers to take ownership of the group and they want to introduce shared activities to make the group more accessible for people who find a discussion in English intimidating. They would like to use the Award to purchase materials for craft packs that the women can use during these activities, including drawing materials, knitting needles and wool and ingredients for cooking activities.
Liz Watson – Virtual Youth Group
This group was set up in June 2020, partly in response to the coronavirus lockdown and the isolation this caused. The group connects young female refugees in North Yorkshire, many of whom live in rural, demographically older, areas. This is a safe space for them to be able to talk and share what they have experienced and to help one another to become more resilient. It will also be a good opportunity for future young arrivals in North Yorkshire to instantly connect with people who they can relate to. The Award would allow the volunteers to plan an outing where they can meet in person when it is safe to do so and it would allow the group to purchase art supplies.
Fatbardha Imeri – HARP Project
Booking interpreters for health appointments has always been an issue in Rotherham, one which has only gotten worse since coronavirus. Fatbardha’s projects will help the asylum seeker and refugee community in Rotherham to access healthcare through the provision and securing of interpreters. She is aiming to gather the experiences of asylum seekers through focus groups in order to feedback the information to the authorities. The money from the Award will go towards topping up clients’ phones so they can take part in the focus groups, as well as providing additional food vouchers available at the groups to encourage people to attend. The incentives will encourage people who are usually afraid to speak out to come forward and share their experiences.