We are always looking for new volunteers to join our Befriending, English at Home, Grace Hosting and Press Gang projects. The Befriending project is in particular need of mature men to support older male refugees. English at Home consists mostly of female volunteers who support female refugees.
I will be finishing as Director of LASSN at the end of October after almost seven years. I feel privileged to have worked alongside such a brilliant group of staff, volunteers and trustees and honoured to have been involved in such important work that benefits so many asylum seekers and refugees. LASSN is looking for a new director and I’d thoroughly recommend the position (see www.lassn.org.uk). Please do tell people about the vacancy (closing date 8 October).
It’s been great to work with so many amazing people from other organisations who share my passion for making the world a better place for those fleeing persecution.
I’ve been impressed by how many people give up their personal time (and money!) to support asylum seekers and refugees and I’ve been touched by the amount of care and understanding shown.
I’ve also be astonished by the journeys and experiences of asylum seekers and refugees themselves. I’ve met some of the most resourceful, intelligent, forgiving, resilient, and interesting people in the world.
It’s not all been good – I’ve also been angry about how asylum seekers are often misrepresented and villainised, how they are made the scapegoats for many of the troubles in this country and how they are made to feel unwanted and worthless. I’d especially pick out politicians who appear scared of the immigration issue and are unprepared to stand up for what is right for fear of it affecting their election. Also I’ve been annoyed when the media pander to prejudice, misinform and misrepresent in order to sell a story.
On leaving LASSN I’m hoping to continue trying to change some of those things. I’m going to be working as a freelance writer, which will include writing about asylum seekers and refugees. I’ll also be writing fiction for adults and children. I’m hoping to work with exiled journalists to counter the negative portrayal of asylum seekers and will continue to be involved with LASSN’s Press Gang.
Hopefully you’ll still see me around and if you have a story to tell I’d be interested to hear it. I’d also love to hear any tips, advice, contacts or opportunities that you think will help me in the future.
Thanks to everyone who has made my time at LASSN some of the most pleasurable and important years of my life.
With appreciation and best wishes,
Peter Richardson, LASSN Director and aspiring writer.
One Planet Leeds magazine is looking for submissions of articles of 500 words or less. Target audience is people who don’t know much about asylum issues and may not really be all that interested. So strong personal stories, creative pieces such as stories or poems, and good public interest links such as sport, arts, food or current affairs are required.
…I probably gain as much out of the friendship as he does – maybe more! Thanks for making the link, and thank you LASSN for giving me such a rewarding activity in retirement.
Peter, Befriending Volunteer.
I would like to say on behalf of both of us that we’re so glad we’ve become hosts and although we’ve not done a huge amount yet, we’ve really enjoyed it. It’s such a great way of getting some more understanding about the issues people face whilst doing a little thing to help them, and it just seems so obvious now we’re doing it – why wouldn’t we when we have a spare room sitting there empty?? Anyway, thanks for your support with it and I hope it continues to be successful – we’re really looking forward to meeting lots more interesting people! It certainly helps keep things in perspective when you’ve got someone there who’s slept in a bus shelter a couple of nights before.
Thanks and look forward to seeing you
Unity in the Community say:
The papers say Britain is under siege from asylum seekers.
Asylum seekers are blamed for higher taxes, crime, rising
house prices, hospital waiting lists, cheap labour, terrorism and AIDS. Mainstream politicians either agree or refuse to challenge these stories. There are two possible reasons for this press campaign. Only one of them can be true. The ﬁrst is that fake refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan and Eastern Europe really are responsible for most of Britain’s problems. Many people believe asylum seekers are one of our society’s biggest problems. No wonder. The scare stories printed every day in the Sun, Express, Star and Mail are hardly ever challenged in the press or in parliament. That’s why we’ve set out some facts that might make you see things diﬀerently. We think they show that asylum seekers are not causing these problems, but that asylum seekers are being used as scapegoats.Asylum seekers are blamed for higher taxes, crime, rising house prices, hospital waiting lists, cheap labour,
It’s the oldest trick in the book. Blame the other fella. Divide and rule. We
produced this leaﬂet because we’re fed up too. Fed up with services that get worse instead of better Fed up with council tax hikes and impossible house prices. Fed up with schools and hospitals being run down and sold oﬀ piecemeal. Fed up with low pay and crime.
Above all, we’re fed up being lied to about why this is happening.
We’re looking to enhance our charity trustee board by co-opting someone experienced in PR/marketing to support and advise on our press/media work. Commitment required: bi-monthly meetings, annual strategy days and providing additional one-to-one support to staff/volunteers.
We have a good relationship together – and I probably gain as much out of the friendship as he does – maybe more! Thanks for making the link, and thank you LASSN for giving me such a rewarding activity in retirement.
Peter, volunteer befriender, January 2013
Short award-winning documentary. Winner of Yorkshire’s Newspaper of the Year O2 Think Big Media award.
- Challenging negative perceptions of refugees
- The new Immigration Bill – tip of the iceberg
- An asylum seeker is shattered but steadfast
- A journey into Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre
- English at Home – a formula for integration
- Inertia in Odyssey (a poem)
- Sports and leisure
- Refugee boy
- To walk in your shows
- Football – A shared sense of belonging
- Media – Mispeceptions
- Experience – The kindness of strangers
- Music – United Voices
- Women – Refugee Group
- Books – Scar Tissue
- Volunteering – interpreters needed
- PAFRAS 10 year anniversary
- Interview with Isa Turkoglu on the Just Play Football Programme
- Refugee Boy by Benjamin Zephaniah
- Amnesty International and STAR Sleep Out
- Leeds Kirkgate Market and the Arrival of Leeds Needs
- What is Your Map Route of Leeds?
- The Debt Free Project
- Welfare reform – what does it mean?
- STAR – Student Action for refugees
- What is the public perception of refugees and asylum seekers in Britain today?
- A world without refugees – poem
- The un-forgotten coat – book review
- Refugees, Capitalism and the British State – book review
The silence surrounding women & violence – Summer 2012
Social security for refugees and Brits under attack – Spring 2012
Legal aid cuts push asylum seekers to the margins – Autumn 2011
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A few quotes from the report published today:
“When assessed as a whole, the evidence of discriminatory, sensational or unbalanced reporting in relation to ethnic minorities, immigrants and/or asylum seekers, is concerning.”
“[The conclusion that] Muslims, migrants, asylum seekers and gypsies/travellers … targets of press hostility and/or xenophobia in the press, was supported by the evidence seen by the Inquiry.”
“…some newspapers expressed a consistently clear view on the harm caused by migrants and/or asylum seekers (often conflating the two) and ensured that any coverage of the issue fit within that narrative.”
“It is important to reiterate that the evidence was not all bad: there were many examples of titles with responsible and positive reporting on these issues, and even within the section of the press identified for criticism, there was evidence showing a complicated picture.”
Judge for yourself by reading the section on ethnic minorities, immigrants and asylum seekers here http://www.ein.org.uk/news/leveson-report-finds-sensational-or-unbalanced-reporting-relation-immigrants-and-asylum-seekers
Or read the 1,000 page report here: http://www.official-documents.gov.uk/document/hc1213/hc07/0780/0780_ii.pdf
We have all heard stories or know of people who can’t afford a hot meal every day. This is a problem for both British born and refugee people. At least we Brits are able to claim benefits but many refugees can’t unless they agree to return to the country they have fled from in fear of their lives. Find out more about failed asylum seekers living below the poverty line, read the Scottish Poverty Information Unit report.
Two match-ups today! Very satisfying indeed. The first was with a sister and brother-in-law in Beeston who have similar levels of English. Again we spent a lovely 45 minutes drinking tea, eating biscuits (this is becoming a definite perk of the job!) and chatting. The volunteer’s family are from a neighbouring country so there was plenty to talk about and they were so grateful to be starting their English lessons. As asylum seekers they have stressful lives. The sister in particular really struggles with the constant stress and uncertainty of her family’s asylum case as well as bringing up three young children in a new country (with unpredictable weather!). She told me when I first met her that she would really enjoy English lessons because she would have just one thing to focus her mind on for a short time each week. She is such a ‘people person’ and really wants to be able to chat with neighbours, other mums and people at bus stops etc. but is afraid that her English isn’t good enough yet.
Then later on in the day it was off to Harehills for another match-up. I met the volunteer about a mile away, near her house, so it was nice to walk up together and have a good chat. It was quite a contrast to this morning. This family have refugee status and a nice council house with a lovely garden of veg and flowers. They are settled, with the husband working and older kids happy in school. There was such a different atmosphere here, all the usual stresses of work and young kids and school runs but it felt so much more relaxed than the home this morning. Yet again we had a lovely chat, as well as playing peekaboo with initially shy but very cute children, and also managed to fit in a little teaching, sharing English and Pashto words for the different nuts we were eating. By the time we left the student was really happy to be starting her lessons again, the volunteer was happy that she had got to know the student and her needs a little, and I was happy that they were ready to start. We had a good chat about teaching methods and resources on the walk back. It was a late finish for me and a long wait at the bus stop, all made more than worth it by reflecting on how vital English at Home is to our students and how incredible the commitment of our volunteers is.
Also – met loads of great new volunteers this week.
What amazing volunteers we have. Shirley has been a volunteer befriender with us for 10 years. In that time she has supported 11 asylum seekers and is still befriending today.
I’m preparing for LASSN agm on 12th October. This year is our 10th anniversary of becoming a registered charity. As I look at the list of volunteers who have worked with us over the years it makes me realise how supportive and generous people are. We have had over 1,000 people volunteer. Vivien volunteered for 9 years and supported 12 families. Sarah started befriended people in 2003 and today is involved in the Grace hosting project providing a bed in her own home for destitute asylum seekers. Irmgard started in 2004 and has taught English to 8 different people. She still teaches three of them. Jackie was involved in setting up LASSN in 1999 and is still a trustee.
Thank you to everyone who has helped LASSN over the years and who has made life better for asylum seekers and refugees in Leeds.
Peter Richardson, Director
I had a fascinating meeting with Mary at Refugee Action Leeds today. I had also been aware that they were involved in Assisted Voluntary Return but learning the detail of the project was really interesting. I think it’s a shame that so many people are sceptical about AVR as this is a great scheme that is suitable for many people. I realised this several years ago when I helped a woman who had actually never intended coming to the UK in the first place (she thought she was being taken to her capital city), was terribly homesick and who had reached the end of the legal process a long time previously.
At the end of the day I went to review a student whose teacher had left a little while ago and wanted a new one. It seemed after several knocks and a phone call that there was no one in, so I walked down the street feeling slightly confused only to have my call returned and find that they were in after all. I had been a little early and I think they had been eating their tea! The student had made great progress and was keen to be matched with another teacher. I then got talking to her husband, who it turned out would also really benefit from a teacher. So I assessed him as well (note to self – always carry spare assessment pack!). He was a much higher level so will need to be taught separately.
I did my first match-up today, what a lovely and satisfying experience! This was part of a new idea started by Dave – matching male volunteers with a husband and wife. I met the volunteer outside and we had a quick chat, mainly about how tricky the flat was to find! We were warmly welcomed into the flat and spent a really nice 45 minutes chatting, drinking tea and getting to know each other a bit. As ever, neither student thought that their English was any good. However to me and the volunteer, an experienced ESOL teacher, they actually both have a lot of ability, just little confidence. Again, I was so inspired by a wonderful, committed EaH volunteer happy to travel from a different town and devote his free time to people in need.
I’m settling in well as English at Home Manager and really enjoying it, especially getting to meet and speak to some of the amazing English at Home volunteers.
I come from a work background of ESOL teaching and public/voluntary sector administration and a volunteer background of project management, volunteer coordinating and campaigning so I’ll certainly be using all of my experience in this job.
I’ve been an ESOL teacher in Further Education in Leeds and Dewsbury for 10 years so have seen time and time again how beneficial language learning is to people in terms of confidence, ability to cope with everyday life, integration, access to further study and access to work or better work.
I am completely passionate about English language learning being available to all. I have seen first hand how changes in government policy regarding ESOL over the last decade have led to an increasing number of isolated and vulnerable learners being unable to access college provision, which has been utterly heartbreaking and only serves to highlight the importance of English at Home.
I am also passionate about the rights of asylum seekers and refugees and ensuring that public and media prejudice against them is dispelled. Several years of campaigning with Leeds No Borders and befriending numerous asylum seekers and new refugees gave me a deep understanding of the isolation, vulnerability, poverty, trauma, health problems, barriers and disempowerment that so many people experience.
I’m really looking forward to reviewing and developing English at Home over the coming months, to training a new group of volunteers and to meeting all of the tutors and students.
I met my first volunteer today. She had already been trained and was ready to be matched up to a student. I was completely inspired by her. She works full time but is so willing to take several hours out of her week to prepare and teach a student. This really made me reflect on how wonderful and committed the EaH volunteers are, and also how brave. I remember myself how I felt going to a stranger’s home for the first time, someone from a completely different place and culture. Of course it was fine, but it is quite a step to take.