Today is ‘I Love Manchester’ day, an event encouraging the people of Manchester to show their love for their city. However, it’s not just native Mancunians who see the city as their home – many refugees and asylum seekers have also found Manchester to be a friendly and welcoming place. We asked some of our staff up north to share their thoughts about Manchester, and to tell us more about Refugee Action’s work there…
Working in Manchester
Speaking to our Manchester staff, it’s clear how much they love living and working in the city. “It is marvellous to do my job helping refugees to resettle while based in a great multicultural town,” said Albert, one of our Gateway workers. Monitoring officer Daniel told us: “I love Manchester because it is such a warm and welcoming place full of pleasant people”. Khadeeja, a team administrator, adds, “I’ve travelled loads and have lived in other places and countries but I keep coming back to Manchester. I love the place. If anyone has the ability to make me an official honorary Mancunian let me know. I’d be honoured. Manchester is home… I wouldn’t have it any other way”.
It’s not just the city itself that our Manchester team loves – their positivity extends to the Refugee Action office too. “I love Manchester because I love helping people, and that’s achieved through Refugee Action,” says caseworker Nouri. “I would like to say that the Manchester office has changed a lot of my personality,” said Hassan, a caseworker and a former refugee. “It’s a very professional place, tidy and clean, very well organised. The team is amazing, very friendly people, respectful at all levels, helpful, supportive professionals. This is from my heart.”
Our Projects in the City
One of Manchester’s strands of work is the Gateway Protection Programme, working with refugees who have been permanently resettled to the UK. This program lends a helping hand to especially vulnerable refugees in Manchester, allowing them to learn new skills and feel part of their new communities. “It is good to be part of bringing people to a city that is so vibrant, friendly and welcoming, and is linked to and known about all over the world,” said Gateway deputy manager Ronnie. Gateway worker Maron agrees, “I love Manchester. It’s accommodating to new people from any cultural background.” Another role in the Gateway programme is the ESOL Development Worker, whose role supports ESOL (English Speakers of Other Languages) providers across the city to help refugees develop their English language skills. “Helping to increase refugees’ access to education with Gateway in Manchester is the most rewarding job I’ve ever done,” said ESOL worker Daniel.
Manchester is also covered by Refugee Action’s One Stop Shop Service, a general advice service for refugees and asylum seekers, covering everything from the asylum process to employment and housing. Despite recent funding cuts to the service, OSS Deputy Manager David feels hopeful for the Manchester team: “Whilst this was a devastating blow to our work, I love the fact that we’re still thinking about the future, about what we can still provide for clients and that we’re talking to other organisations about how we can come together to make best use of what is left. We’ll never give up.”
The Wellbeing Project brings together refugees from across the city to make friends and learn new skills through various sport, arts and leisure activities. “When I joined the Wellbeing Project I was suffering from depression,” one participant told us. “[Now] I have met people from different cultures, I made friends. I enjoy my life and I am happy in Manchester.” The project also runs bike recycling scheme gives unwanted bikes donated by the general public to refugees and teaches them cycling proficiency. “The bike gives me independence, I don’t have to worry about money or the bus ticket and it also improves my health,” said a participant. “When I feel stressed I get my bike and I go out and explore local areas that I haven’t been to before. I just get lost, it’s great stress relief!”
Also running in Manchester is the Voluntary Sector Keyworker Pilot, which aims to help asylum seekers understand more about the asylum process. Applying for asylum can be very complicated and distressing, so this project seeks to provide applicants with the practical and emotional support they need whether their application is successful or not. There’s also our Manchester Choices service, which exists to assist those who are considering returning to their country of origin voluntarily. Our dedicated Choices team in Manchester can help clients with anything from deciding whether to return to filling out the paperwork or applying for a new passport.
Our Manchester Supporters
Local volunteers are a big part of our Manchester team. Natalie, volunteer coordinator for OSS Manchester, praises the contribution made by local volunteers to their team: “We currently have 30 volunteers who assist caseworkers with various tasks […] the service is extremely busy and fast-paced and the volunteers do a magnificent job keeping their cool while dealing with extremely difficult and complex cases. It helps that the majority of our volunteers are Manchester based, and therefore have lots of knowledge about the city.”
In September, some of our Manchester based volunteers are hosting a fundraising event in support of the Wellbeing Project (described above). Taking place at Brasserie Bar in Altrincham on September 10th at 7.30pm, the event will feature a silent auction and raffle for some fantastic prizes, an incredible body painter on hand to decorate hands and faces with wonderful patterns, and dancing the night away – all in support of a great local community project. For tickets, you can contact the organisers.
After London, Manchester is home to the largest number of people who make a regular donation to Refugee Action’s work. While this is likely due in part of the city’s size, we feel it also shows Manchester to be a very generous and welcoming place. We think that all Mancunians should feel very proud of their city’s commitment to supporting refugees and asylum seekers, as for our staff, volunteers and clients, this is one of the best things about their city. For a final thought, we’ll leave you with the words of our staff member Maron: “Manchester: ideal place to be”.