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!

Linguacuisine: Recipes for language success!

Linguacuisine: Recipes for language success!

Below are details of an exciting event we are taking part in – please spread the word!

For the past two years, Action Foundation has been working with the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) and three universities on Linguacuisine, an Erasmus+ project to create an app promoting language learning through cooking. Our language learners have co-designed the website and created recipes in a variety of languages (including English!), which can then be used to aid learning as well as create delicious meals!

We will launch the app at Blackfriars in Newcastle on Tuesday 18 September, and would like to share this with as many people as possible. There will be live cooking and tasting of the recipes, as well as more information on how to contribute your own recipes and opportunities to meet others with shared interests. The event is free and anyone can register at the Eventbrite page below, and you can find out more about the project at https://linguacuisine.com/

We hope we will see you there and please do pass this on to other groups or language learners who may be interested.

Action Language Enrolment Days for September 2018

Action Language Enrolment Days for September 2018

If you can’t have English classes at college, you can come to Action Language!

We deliver English classes for adults (18+) of all abilities.  Enrolment in Newcastle for classes in September is at The CastleGate, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm on:

Wednesday 29 August
Thursday 30 August
Friday 31 August
Monday 3 September
Tuesday 4 September

Please come to do a short test and bring your ID (passport, card or papers are fine!). We look forward to welcoming you!

For information can be found on our ‘Contact Us’ page

Ela is on a mission to encourage volunteering and embrace change in Poland

Ela is on a mission to encourage volunteering and embrace change in Poland

Elzbieta Sarapata (Ela) is from a mountain village called Piechowice in Poland, and is a qualified teacher. Through her church and a passion for helping others, Ela met with one of our Action Language teachers, Ruth Colclough, whilst volunteering in France back in 1990, and they formed a long-lasting friendship.  It is this friendship that has led Ela on a journey of discovery that embraces the English language, volunteering, humanity and ultimately a visit to Action Language this summer.

For the past 9 years Ela has been teaching private one-to-one English lessons in Poland to pupils aged between 7-18 years. As a teacher, Ela is passionate about making her lessons relevant and engaging and achieves this by applying critical thinking whilst delivering the lessons in the English language. With Ruth’s lesson ideas and her support in sending over English newspapers, Ela encouraged her students to embrace very relevant and topical global issues, for example single use plastics, whilst at the same time helping the students to improve their command of the English language. Ela was delighted when the opportunity arose to volunteer for a week with Action Language this summer, here in Newcastle upon Tyne, and she was keen to increase her understanding of the issues facing asylum seekers and refugees and how this works in the UK. Ela explained “I hope to use the knowledge to better understand why my country is more fearful and less welcoming to these people. I would also like to encourage more volunteering in Poland by sharing my positive experiences with others”. During her volunteering week at Action Language Ela supported about 10 or 11 different classes; each one offering different teaching styles and levels of student ability, whilst supported by volunteer teaching assistants.

“I was made to feel so welcome by everyone at Action Language and really felt part of the groups from day one. Everyone was very respectful and kind and the classes so enjoyable. I met learners from around the world including Sudan and Eritrea and their journeys have inspired me to look further into the conflicts that these countries are enduring to understand more” Ela added.


Providing opportunities to help overcome exclusion

Providing opportunities to help overcome exclusion

As part of our most recent ESOL for Work course, we included (as usual!) a session on volunteering, as a way of gaining experience and enhancing one’s CV. Surrounded as we are at the moment by the Great Exhibition of the North, students were directed towards volunteering there. Two did so, Aleksandra and Lin. Aleksandra volunteered with the Concordia Festival, helping as primary school choirs moved around different venues in Newcastle singing in each place. Here’s her feedback:

“Hi Ruth, I just wanted to thank you for this opportunity for Concordia Festival! It was such a nice experience because children were singing so beautifully!!!”, and Lin? – well, let him tell you himself! “Hello Ruth. Thank you for the great information of Great Exhibition. I have been a volunteer now and attended training sessions as many as I can including First Aid course yesterday. In addition, I have attended the cycling shift of Sound Journey for Newcastle. All of those are very helpful to me. Thank you very much.”

As well as hoping to support our clients to take advantage of new opportunities, we also want to help them with progression, and volunteering is a great way to progress from our ESOL for Work course, and hopefully one day, on to paid work too!

You can find out more about the Great Exhibition of the North and their volunteering opportunities at https://getnorth2018.com/get-involved/volunteers/