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: Weekly football sessions for asylum seekers, refugees and local youth
Where: Sheffield, UK
Collaborators: FURD, U-Mix Centre, Sheffield
Football Unites, Racism Divides (FURD) hosts weekly football sessions at the U-Mix Centre in Sheffield for asylum seekers and refugees, and local youth more broadly, to promote social inclusion and understanding between different communities. FURD believes that “football, as the world’s most popular sport, can help break down barriers created by ignorance or prejudice, and bring together people from different backgrounds to play, watch and enjoy the game”.
Wednesday U-Mix sessions gather a diverse mixture of users: younger and older experienced players and beginners (though, sadly, efforts to attract women haven’t worked out yet). Around 15 people usually turn up and join in. According to one of the regular members of the group, Wednesday sessions are a great way for newcomers to establish a network of friends in Sheffield and learn about other events and activities going on in the city. Football exercises allow refugees and asylum seekers to undertake a structured physical activity outdoors — irrespective of the weather. Playing football provides a helpful escape from everyday worries. After a game, all participants are welcome to lunch — a friendly way to continue informal discussions, about football and beyond, and develop new friendships and connections.