Christmas Hamper Love!

Christmas Hamper Love!

We are extremely grateful to City Church for their kind donations of Christmas hampers for all of our residents in Newcastle, Gateshead and Sunderland. City Church have donated Christmas bags packed with goodies and treats and all including a pair of warm gloves. The team at Action Foundation delivered the hamper bags to our housing, letting and hosting guests during the week before Christmas.  The hampers contain goodies including tea, coffee, biscuits, sweets, chocolates, tortilla chips, juice and much more!

CELEBRATING THE YEAR WITH YOU!

CELEBRATING THE YEAR WITH YOU!

Thank you to all our learners, residents, volunteers, funders and supporters!!!  What an amazing year it has been and what a great way to end our year with two celebration parties in both Newcastle and Sunderland.

We welcomed over 200 guests to our celebrations in Newcastle, which included a ‘Building Bridges’ challenge (making a bridge from recycled materials in 15 minutes!) to the live sounds of the Cramlington Caribbean Crew! We would like to thank the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress for kindly joining us for our celebration in Newcastle, held in the Turbine Hall at the Castlegate on Tuesday 11 December and to the Samosa Sisters for the delicious hot food.  The Samosa Sisters are a non-profit refugee led community organisation that supports and empowers vulnerable women living in NE England raising funds for the relief of poverty (destitution fund) to help vulnerable women with ‘No recourse to public funds’. We would also like to thank City Church for helping us with the arrangements and for the technical support in showing our special Thank You film made by Robin Fry with the support of Ash.

In Sunderland, our party got into full swing on Wednesday 12 December when we were delighted to be joined by over 50 guests along with Janine Hartley, NEMP Partnership Manager and our CEO, Julian Prior, who together had the difficult task of selecting the winner in our ‘Building Bridges’ challenge! 

Our ‘Thank You’ film was premiered at both venues with many of the stars of the screen present at the events! 

HOSTING A GUEST AT CHRISTMAS

HOSTING A GUEST AT CHRISTMAS


Hosting at Christmas is a new experience for me by Ann

I have family coming to stay for a few days and also have a guest (that I have only recently met) staying for 4 weeks. My guest and I are getting to know each other by careful listening and with a bit of help from google translate.  We are both mothers and have similar religious traditions but are from totally different cultures. Already we have cooked and enjoyed eating meals together. I have been introduced to foreign language chat shows courtesy of youtube, interesting how similar some aspects of our cultures actually are!  It will be difficult for my guest as my family arrive reminding her of her own family far away and it will be a reminder to my family to be very grateful for the time we do have together.  My guest and I are already benefiting greatly from each other during this Christmas period and whilst we do not know what the New Year will bring for either of us, we shall have the gift of friendship and new insight into our respective cultures. My New Years resolution ‘Must do this again’.

Hopefully my two guests will be company for each other (as well as for me!) by Peter

I am hosting a regular guest for 4 weeks in December and January, including over Christmas. I have also agreed to host a second guest, who stayed briefly once before, for the holiday week. Both are from non-Christian African backgrounds, and speak Arabic. Both have (I think) been in the UK for Christmas before but I don’t believe they have met. My normal routine of joining my brother and his family on Christmas day will still happen. Other than that I hope to include them both in any gatherings at my home if they wish. And hopefully they will be company for each other (as well as for me!). This is the first Christmas I have hosted for Action Foundation so it will be interesting to see how the two of them feel over the holiday. It is quite likely they will spend time with friends they have around the area who share their cultural background. But no doubt they will be thinking of distant family and friends.

This Christmas I am looking forward to receiving more than I will ever give! by Margaret 

Arriving home after working in rural West Africa for several months it was wonderful to have my guest move in 3 hours later.  She is from Africa and that first evening we all enjoyed an African meal (cooked by African friends) and all tried on my new guest’s wig!! Happily she is staying over Christmas – a truly international one with guests from Zimbabwe, China, Indonesia, and Nigeria, although I will be cooking a traditional Christmas meal with all the trimmings!  Some are strangers and hopefully will become ‘part of the family’. Apparently in many languages ‘guest’ and ‘host’ are the same or interchangeable and it is wonderful to see our ‘guests’ become ‘hosts’.   Offering refuge to people means that my home becomes theirs and by offering hospitality one is the ‘receiver’ as well as the ‘giver’, as the ‘host’ becomes the ‘guest’ and ‘receiver’ on so many occasions. So that first Christmas –no guest room available  – unthinkable to turn anyone away – so Joseph and Mary were offered accommodation in the section of the house where the animals lived. But that home received the most wonderful guest of all who brought the gift of eternal life, Jesus Christ.

To find out more about becoming a Host please contact Lesley Dunn at hosting@actionfoundation.org.uk or call 0191 231 3113.  

TOGETHER AT LAST FOR CHRISTMAS!

TOGETHER AT LAST FOR CHRISTMAS!

It is hard to comprehend having to wait over 2 years to be reunited with your wife and two young children who are on the other side of the world, but happily Tolosa and his family will at last be together this Christmas!  Having arrived as an asylum seeker in the UK in August 2016, Tolosa wasted no time in immersing himself in the community in Sunderland where he was initially dispersed to by the Home Office.  Through the Friends of the Drop In (FODI) and Action Language Sunderland, he signed up to be a volunteer with both organisations. As an Amharic and Oromo speaker, as well as having an excellent command of the English language, he was soon providing both interpreting assistance as well as becoming a Teaching Assistant in the classroom – it didn’t take Tolosa long to settle into the FODI/Action Foundation community. In Ethiopia Tolosa was a university teacher, holding a degree in political sciences and with two Masters’ qualifications in water management and peace and security.

But his journey through the asylum process was not a smooth one and was emotionally very painful.  It involved waiting one year away from his family for a decision on his asylum claim only to be rejected. He made an immediate appeal and the decision was eventually overturned due to Tolosa’s diligence in contacting his local MP and securing the support to be moved onto the priority list. Once overturned, he still had to wait a further 5 months to have this decision confirmed in writing and he was officially granted refugee status on 4 July 2018 with leave to remain until 2023.

He moved from Home Office accommodation into an Action Foundation house in Newcastle.  Tolosa explained, “When you are an asylum seeker the Home Office will provide you with accommodation until a decision has been made on your claim. In this case if you are granted refugee status you will be given 28 days to look for another accommodation by yourself. So the Home Office has no obligation to provide accommodation if the asylum seekers are either refused or granted a refugee status. In this case, it is the responsibility of the refugee to find a place which is often very difficult . So I was lucky to find a place in Acton Foundation housing within 28 days after being granted refugee status”.

He recounted a dark time when he was instructed to report to the Immigration Office in Middlesbrough every 2 weeks for 2-3 months, on each occasion he feared that he would be detained and prepared to say goodbye to his friends. Keeping busy through volunteering and being surrounded by people who care was key to Tolosa’s mental well-being. “Having someone to listen to me and to be interested in helping me meant a lot to me” said Tolosa.

He didn’t waste any time in applying for a family reunion, which he completed himself. His Action Housing support worker, Jen, helped to provide advice on finding a home ready for him and his family to start their new life together. His family, who had never travelled outside of Ethiopia before, flew over to the UK and arrived at Newcastle Airport on the 25th of October 2018.

“I was so happy. It was a very emotional moment at the airport as I had never met my young son before, as my wife was pregnant when I left Ethiopia. I didn’t know who to kiss first!! “ he said. “My daughter has now started nursery and is learning some English. My wife, who has a degree in sociology, is also continuing her English language studies and attends a weekly community class. For me, I have been offered a volunteering role at the British Red Cross and am keen to secure a good paid job” explained Tolosa.

This Christmas will be a very special time for Tolosa and his family and we wish them great peace, happiness and success for the future.

Celebrating the year with you! Enjoy our Thank You film!

Celebrating the year with you! Enjoy our Thank You film!

Thank you to all our learners, residents, volunteers, funders and supporters!!!  What an amazing year it has been and what a great way to end our year with two celebration parties in both Newcastle and Sunderland.

  

 

We welcomed over 200 guests to our celebrations in Newcastle, which included a ‘Building Bridges’ challenge (making a bridge from recycled materials in 15 minutes!) to the live sounds of the Cramlington Caribbean Crew! We would like to thank the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress for kindly joining us for our celebration in Newcastle, held in the Turbine Hall at the Castlegate on Tuesday 11 December and to the Samosa Sisters for the delicious hot food.  The Samosa Sisters are a non-profit refugee led community organisation that supports and empowers vulnerable women living in NE England raising funds for the relief of poverty (destitution fund) to help vulnerable women with ‘No recourse to public funds’. 

In Sunderland, our party got into full swing on Wednesday 12 December when we were delighted to be joined by over 50 guests along with our CEO, Julian Prior, who had the difficult task of selecting the winner in our ‘Building Bridges’ challenge!

Our ‘Thank You’ film, made by Robin Fry with the support of Ash, was premiered at both venues with many of the stars of the screen present at the events! 

Here is our special Thank You to you all. 

Following his dreams…

Following his dreams…

I had the pleasure of interviewing Ash (a young man aged 22 from Iran), who came to Action Foundation to further improve his English language and to access our Action Letting in Sunderland. Little did he know then that doors were about to open for him, not only literally but also metaphorically… to a promising and exciting future ahead.  We started our conversation by looking to the future…Ash has been offered a place to study for a Masters’ in Film Directing at the very prestigious University of the Arts in London!

Since the age of 12 and whilst at school in Iran, Ash dreamt of a career in the film industry and has a great passion for the history of cinema and film noir. He has very supportive parents and early advice from both his mother and father have given him great strength and determination to follow his dream.
His mum, who studied Psychology and is very open minded, said “If you have a glass of water, don’t see the empty spaces, see the water inside”. His dad’s advice was: “You need to do what brings you joy and to follow your dreams so that when I am no longer here, you will continue to be happy.”

He didn’t expect to receive such a warm welcome when he arrived in the North East, but he found everyone very welcoming in Sunderland and particularly when he started volunteering at FODI (Friends of the Drop-in Sunderland).

Having a good understanding of the English language and volunteering opened many doors for Ash and has played a huge part in developing his many friendships. He met a radio producer and was introduced to Spark Radio, a full-time community radio station at Sunderland University run by volunteers and now regularly presents on their weekly live show which goes out on Tuesdays 11-12noon. To learn about broadcasting, he firstly ‘shadowed’ other presenters, produced a short clip and then went ‘live on air’!

He has formed long lasting friendships with volunteers and their families that he has met through FODI and later at Action Language and Action Letting where the owner of his accommodation has connected him with people in London and accommodation ready for the start of his Masters’.
In forming friendships, it is very important to respect the culture you are living in and to be able to say sorry if you think you may have offended someone, which can be hard to know if you don’t understand the different cultureexplained Ash.

Ash now has friends from many different countries and cultures, some of whom have now moved to different cities in the UK, but they will continue to keep in touch and meet up.

When Ash heard about Action Language he was keen to get involved in classes to further improve his already very good English.  He found everyone so friendly and welcoming and was also introduced to Action Housing. This enabled Ash to move into our supported housing with help from Jen, one of our support workers, and for the past six months he has been happily sharing a flat with 3 others (very tidy people) in Sunderland, overlooking the river.
He is very grateful for the support given through Action Housing which means not having to worry about practical things to do with the accommodation and he knows that he can always ask Jen for advice on things or where to go for any extra support.

At Action Language Sue helped me so much in practising for my IELTS exam and gave me preparation exercises. It was hard work, but I passed and achieved the points I needed for my university applicationssaid Ash.   He applied to 5 universities with 4 all happy to consider his past qualifications and background in production.  Entry to the University of the Arts in London is an arduous process with a 3-stage interview process.  In the final stage, Ash was asked to direct a script scene from the film ‘In Bruges’ directing two professional actors and in front of the course leaders!

Ash said:It was a golden time – I knew I needed to be the best version of myself”.  He was offered one of only 7 places! “I called my family by internet in the middle of the night to tell them the news! My mum was crying, and it was the happiest moment of my life so far in the UK. My family have sacrificed a lot for me to follow my dreams.

When Ash arrived in the UK it was not what he expected, but it has proved to be a very friendly and welcoming country and where he is very happy to be. On leaving Iran, it was the first time that he had lived alone, but his experiences have made him a stronger person.  He will miss the North East when he moves down to London, particularly all the kind people he has met, but also the local accents, the history of the area, the football banter and Sunderland. We will miss Ash too and we wish him all the best as he follows his dreams and we look forward to hearing more about his exciting future ahead.

Overcoming cultural and practical barriers

Overcoming cultural and practical barriers

On Wednesday 7 November we launched our Resident Support Programme. The project is designed to help residents of our supported accommodation overcome cultural and practical barriers which stand in the way of them creating independent lives in the UK. The first module of the workshop explores some of the challenges residents might face and the ways Action Foundation can support them on their journey to independence.

We also encouraged participants to help shape the programme by canvassing their opinions on the types of information, advice and opportunities relevant to them such as social activities in their area or work placement opportunities.

The workshop was a great success with all participants agreeing it was useful and improved their understanding of the ways Action Foundation can support them. The event was made possible by the efforts and commitment of 3 volunteers; one of whom facilitated the workshop by interpreting between the trainer and participants ensuring that all those present could not only understand but fully engage in group discussions.

What an Impact!

What an Impact!

Over the past year we have helped more people across a wider geographic area with the support of more volunteers than ever before!

We have been able to support 1413 refugees, asylum seekers and other migrants through our housing and language projects – an increase of 27% on the previous year.

Read more about the impact Action Foundation has made, in our 2018 report. Below you will find our report in two formats, a page turning format and a pdf:

Page Turning Format: http://bit.ly/AFImpactReport2018 

PDF Format: ActionFoundation-Report_2018

Volunteering Opportunities: Resident Support Programme

Volunteering Opportunities: Resident Support Programme

 

Resident Support Programme: Next month Action Foundation is launching the Resident Support Program. This will consist of a package of workshops and training session which will expand the support and advice already provided by our dedicated team of Support Workers to the vulnerable asylum seekers and refugees we house. We are developing the programme in consultation with residents in order to ensure that it is tailored to meet individual circumstances, experiences and interests as well as addressing recurring challenges people face on the journey from destitution towards creating independent and fulfilling lives here in the North East of England. The Resident Support Programme will provide information, advice and opportunities in the following 3 broad areas:

  • Life in the UK: Developing life skills, promoting independent living and providing opportunities to connect with the community
  • Employment: Becoming more employable through developing skills and accessing education, training and work experience opportunities
  • Housing: Helping residents to prepare for the realities of sustaining independent tenancies after moving-on from supported accommodation.
Volunteer Opportunities: Recruiting enthusiastic, committed volunteers will be essential to making the Resident Support Programme a success, and we are eager to hear from anyone who wants to get involved in the project.
Find out more about our volunteer positions on our website…
We are also recruiting the following volunteer positions:
  • Working with people where English is not their first language
  • Work with people who are experiencing social exclusion
  • Teaching, training or mentoring
  • Independent Living/Life Skills
  • Speakers of Arabic, Amharic, Farsi, Tigrinya, Kurdish or French

We are planning to develop a rolling program of workshops and sessions and would like to enlist the support of volunteers who are able to make an advanced commitment to delivering sessions on a regular basis.

Volunteer Program Support: To provide project and administrative support to the Resident Support Program. The role will be based at the Action Foundation Office in Newcastle and will suit someone who is comfortable using Microsoft Word and Excel and is able make a regular weekly commitment.
Volunteer Buddies: To accompany and support residents to take part in volunteer opportunities or social activities until they are confident enough to do so on their own. The role will require some travel across Tyne & Wear and Teesside and would suit a person who can be available for a few hours per week at different times.

All volunteers will be provided with a full project induction, specific training related to their volunteer role and on-going support. Getting in touch. If you would like to discuss any aspect of the project in more detail please contact: Jes Balmer, Resident Support Trainer, Action Foundation & Open Door North East
0191 231 3113 Jesbalmer@actionfoundation.org.uk

Meet our newest Trustee: Sirak Hagos

Meet our newest Trustee: Sirak Hagos

 

Sirak is from Eritrea and has lived in the UK and the North East for the past 20 years.  Having seen at first-hand how Action Foundation has supported people from Eritrea and knowing the excellent service received through Action Housing, Letting and our ESOL classes, Sirak was very keen to get involved with our work.  With a deep spiritual connection to the  church and the Eritrean congregation that he is actively involved with, he set up a link and support network. Being able to help people from disadvantaged backgrounds has been his passion and focus with a desire to give something back.  When he was approached earlier this year to become a Trustee at Action Foundation, Sirak was delighted to accept.

Due to his religious beliefs, Sirak arrived as a refugee in the UK in 1998 and claimed asylum at Heathrow airport.  He   was placed temporarily in a hostel in London before being dispersed by the Home Office to the North East. In April 1999, having spent 2 weeks in Sunderland, he found a hostel in Newcastle and later moved into a council flat.  His love of this city started then (despite admitting that he supports Manchester United!). For the first few months Sirak didn’t have a work permit but with his sunny disposition and friendly personality, he sold the ‘Big Issue’ magazine and was soon making quite a lot of money “people inherently want to help you” said Sirak.  Once his work permit was issued, he found employment quite easily working for the Refugee Service as an interpreter, assisting the police, courts and the NHS.  Sirak knows only too well the reality of high rents in the city and for someone earning low wages in a part time job, life can be very hard. He had soon saved up enough money to purchase his first rental property and is now a successful landlord, owning and managing properties in the region.

Before seeking asylum from Eritrea, Sirak, who comes from a well-off family, worked in accounting and was the Senior Budget Controller for the Ministry of Finance.  Once settled in the North East, he continued his academic studies by completing a Masters’ in Business Administration at Sunderland University and this business acumen has led him to setting up several charitable and community organisations:

‘Investing in People and Culture’ was set up by Sirak 8 years ago.  It works with small refugee groups e.g. The Eritrean Community Organisation, to help them to build their organisational capabilities, fundraising potential and policies and procedures.
‘The Other Perspective’ is a community interest company that provides an entrepreneurial platform for refugees with a focus on capacity building for businesses in the catering, interpreting and cleaning sectors. They also provide office space and hall hire for different refugee groups (e.g. Roma, Syria, Congo) in Newcastle, Gateshead and Middlesbrough.

Sirak is truly settled in the North East, having married a ‘Geordie lass’, and family life, together with his faith and his work makes him extremely happy!