Iranian refugee, Yousef Rastgoo, who came to the UK eight months ago to build a new life here, has found a home from home in a South Tyneside community garden thanks to a new Action Foundation project.

Yousef used to live in a rural part of Iran where he was accustomed to looking after livestock, including hens.

So when he encountered these feathered friends at the NECA Community Garden in South Shields, he felt right at home.

Woodwork skills

NECA Community Garden is the first organisation in South Tyneside to offer volunteer places to asylum seekers and refugees through our new InterAction South Tyneside project.

Yousef, 38, will be learning valuable skills at the garden. Aside from planting and caring for the vegetables, trees, fruit and flowers there, he’ll be training in woodwork and learning how to cook using what he grows. Most importantly though, he’ll be welcomed as part of the community in South Tyneside.

Dave, left, with Yousef and Amelia

Green Oasis

Dave Johnson, who manages the NECA Community Garden, says he’s witnessed the positive effects brought about by this ‘green oasis of hope’ since it was first established over 20 years ago.

“We like to think of the garden as a welcoming and safe place for visitors and volunteers of all ages and from all walks of life to come and learn, take part or just relax and meet people,” he said.

“I’ve seen many lives changed as a result of coming to this garden.”

InterAction South Tyneside is working with a variety of organisations in the area to create opportunities for refugees, asylum seekers and other migrants to integrate into their new community. The work aims to tackle loneliness and boost volunteering and is made possible by the Community Foundation Tyne and Wear and Northumberland through the Department for Culture Media and Sport Know Your Neighbourhood Fund.

Social Inclusion Officer with the InterAction South Tyneside project, Amelia Noake, said: “People are not allowed to work while they are seeking asylum and this can make it difficult to meet new people, improve their English, and become integrated into their local communities.

“That’s why it’s so important to create volunteering opportunities and provide skill building and community based activities that are accessible to both those seeking asylum and refugees who have not yet found work. 

“It will hopefully improve their overall health, wellbeing and independence, but also encourage an attitude of solidarity towards migrants within the wider community.”

If you know or are part of a South Tyneside organisation or business that can work with InterAction South Tyneside to offer volunteering opportunities to our clients, please contact Amelia via email on [email protected]

Or, if you’re an asylum seeker or refugee who would like to find out more about the volunteering opportunities on offer, you can contact Amelia via WhatsApp on: 07557 210775  

People are invited to find out more about InterAction South Tyneside at a free launch event at The Word library in South Shields on Wednesday February 7th between 11am-1pm. You’ll find The Word in Market Place, South Shields NE33 1JF.

It will take place in ‘The Round’ on the third floor. Snacks and refreshments will be provided.