Summary: Urban and countryside walks for newly arrived students and refugees
Where: Plymouth, UK
Initiated by: START: Students and Refugees Together
Website: www.studentsandrefugeestogether.com; @STARTplymouth
START based in Plymouth and Cornwall supports the orientation and settlement of refugees in the city and their transition ‘from people in need, to self-reliant contributors to their local communities’. The START model of working brings together students on placements from professional programmes such as social work and occupational therapy with refugees and people seeking asylum, all of whom might be new to Plymouth. The ambition is to support an environment where people can use and develop skills, develop new connections and ultimately build more cohesive communities.
‘STARTWalking’ is an initiative that involves a series of walks (roughly quarterly) undertaken by staff, students and refugees, giving all a chance to get to know both the city's green spaces and the nearby countryside. As well as its proximity to Cornwall and Dartmoor, Plymouth has a very dramatic coastal location. The programme introduces the walkers to this beautiful resource, getting to know the character and history of the landscape, building their confidence in getting around, and hopefully helps them develop a sense of attachment to their new home. It is also an opportunity to make new friends within the refugee community and outside, exchange experiences and sometimes share memories of home countries.
START Walking has produced a guidebook highlighting nine walks in and around the city. It provides practical information on transport, information on historical heritage and the local wildlife that can be enjoyed during the walk. This beautifully illustrated booklet can be used as a resource for individuals, friends and groups – newcomers and old-timers in the city!
Where: Manchester, UK
Collaborators: Refugee Action, Groundwork, and local operators
Refugee Action’s Wellbeing Cycling Club was set up in 2008 in partnership with the Cycling Touring Club (CTC) and funded through the Big Lottery Fund’s Target Wellbeing. Between 2013 and 2015, the Wellbeing Cycling Club provided cycling training to over 400 asylum seekers and refugees throughout Greater Manchester. For a few hours a week, keen learner and experienced cyclists took part in park-based and on-road cycling activities, including training on safety, control, and the Highway Code.
Cycling classes were targeted at different age and gender groups, and advertised through word-of-mouth, posters, and staff working at centres such as the Boaz Trust, Revive, and the British Red Cross. The formal cycling training sessions were supplemented by ongoing individual advice from social work students on placement from Manchester and Salford Universities. Though it focused on cycling, this additional encouragement aimed at addressing wider issues in relation to stress and wellbeing in a broader life context.
Evaluation of the project was built into all stages, partly through the keeping of ‘cycling diaries’ by 47 participants. Two thirds of respondents reported an improvement in their stress management, 83% reported feeling happier after having taken part, and all appreciated learning new skills. Some groups built a sense of community among participants, and an increase in confidence allowed them to explore their neighbourhood more freely. For some, cycling became their favourite means of getting around. Sadly, the specific funding stream ran out in 2015, bringing an end to the project, and the bikes were donated to a local community project who could continue its good work.
Summary: A dedicated orientation programme for newly arrived Syrian refugees
Where: London, UK
Collaborators: Refugee Action and local partners
Orientation takes place during the arrivals week and is carried out after staff and volunteers at Refugee Action have provided refugees with the essentials (tenancy, housing benefits, job-seeking appointments, GP registration, Home Office, basic utilities). Firstly, local tours are given. These involve walking with newcomers around their immediate area and showing them local shops, markets, supermarkets, discount stores, local parks, mosques/churches, post offices, payment points (to collect benefits before a bank account has been set up), and transport links.
James Peto from Refugee Action feels that parks are important but sometimes difficult to find; therefore, he makes a point of including these in the tours. On the first trip, there is usually an element of teaching newcomers to London about transport systems, currency, money saving, safeguarding, and road safety. James explains: “We want this to be a friendly experience and try to take them to at least some places that speak Arabic and may seem more familiar to them so they are encouraged to explore by themselves as opposed to feeling daunted by the foreign environment.”
The second orientation is for the wider area. In London, volunteers and staff at Refugee Action take clients to Shepherd’s Bush Market, where there are several Syrian shops and restaurants. Specific itineraries will reflect discussion between Refugee Action staff members and the refugees who participate in the projects.
Summary: Curated online and offline information hub for refugees and asylum seekers
Where: Berlin, Germany
Collaborators: place / making, Association for Socio-Cultural Work e. V.
Bezirksamtes Reinickendorf, Albatros gGmbH
In 2015, at a high point in Syrian refugee arrivals in Germany, the Integration Commissioner of Berlin-Reinickendorf outlined a key challenge: “The problem are not missing services for refugees but ways to better communicate the existing ones where the people are actually living.” InfoCompass is an integrated approach, supporting information flows between asylum seekers and refugees, professional supporters, organisations, and volunteers.
It provides a service which collects, structures and locates support and activity offers and sources of general information. Online information mapping is supported by physically located and staffed Info Points throughout Berlin. InfoCompass provides a crowdsourced, collaborative gathering of information; crucially, however, this is supported as much as possible by an editorial team which check entries and provide good-quality translation.