Refugees and asylum seekers in South Tyneside are benefiting from a whole range of activities thanks to InterAction South Tyneside’s new social prescribing project.

Action Foundation has linked up with a range of community organisations to create opportunities for volunteering or trying out a new hobby, thanks to support from the Know Your Neighbourhood Fund.*

Citizen Songwriters is the latest social enterprise to work with some of our clients who got to play guitar, drums and ukelele when they met up for a jamming session at Ocean Road Community Centre.

Amelia Noake, Social Inclusion Officer with our InterAction South Tyneside project (pictured below), said the people she’s working with are really enjoying learning new skills and forging new friendships.

Hidden talents

“Sam from Citizen Songwriters created a safe and fun space where we could share our favourite songs, many from traditional artists around the world,” Amelia said.

“We uncovered some hidden talents, with people offering solo singing performances and sharing drumming and guitar skills with the group. Sam also taught us some new songs and chord patterns for beginners, such as the classic, ‘Lean on Me'”.

“We finished the session with collaborative song writing, drawing on the motif of birds, hope and freedom, to create a beautiful chorus, which included the word for bird in five languages! The clients told me it was a ‘fun and different opportunity’ for them.

“One man said, ‘It was more than just learning the guitar, it was time for me to be happy.'” 

Cooking up opportunities

As well as Citizen Songwriters sessions, one client, Farshad, from Iran (second from left in picture), has volunteered with Food Cycle, cooking for and serving customers, whilst others have been learning gardening and woodworking at NECA’s Community Garden in South Shields.

Coming up in the next few weeks are cycling lessons with The Cycle Partnership and a First Aid course with Rose Health and Safety.

As well as Amelia’s volunteering project, InterAction South Tyneside also provides casework with displaced people in South Shields each week through the STARCH Drop in at the Living Waters Church, which aims to address social isolation and help people navigate NHS services. This aspect of work is funded by South Tyneside Health Collaboration on behalf of the North East and North Cumbria ICB