Through the We Stand Together project, Croydon Voluntary Action (CVA) will be working with asylum seekers who have experienced extremely stressful life events both in their home countries and during their journey to a safe country, including injury, sexual attack, torture and death of loved ones. Once in the host country, they continue to deal with worries about family members left behind, concerns about the right to remain, hostile political policies and discrimination.
The pandemic has exacerbated these problems by extending their time in accommodation that was designed for temporary stays, coupled with a lack of previously available support services, from access to libraries and WiFi to mental health support. Perceptions around talking about problems differ across cultures. Consequently, opportunities for informal, social interaction that develop trusted relationships are more likely to open up access to community services offering mental health support.
Developing relationships built on trust
The We Stand Together project will offer regular sports sessions specifically targeting refugees and homeless people (who suffer many of the same problems), through outreach work and CVA’s connections with over 40 refugee organisations operating in Croydon.
The work will be delivered by coaches and volunteers from local community clubs, offering progression into mainstream activities if appropriate. The programme will be designed with ‘activators’, volunteers from the refugee and homeless community, trained and supported to identify their skills, strengths and passions and deliver the activities.
Using staff and volunteer activators with lived experience and providing practical support such as kit, equipment and travel expenses enables more equal access. This represents a move away from similar forums which are dominated by professionals with little representation from users, a situation that is often more acute for refugees and the homeless due to language and literacy skills and digital exclusion. We Stand Together aims to increase the strength of the service users’ voice on key forums and learn whether this results in different solutions and has a greater impact.
CVA’s previous experience has shown that sport can successfully engage with refugees, asylum seekers and homeless people, provided that there is significant preparation and outreach work to develop trusted relationships with deliverers.
The sessions will be attended by community partners offering a plethora of wrap-around support services, with training for all partners and volunteers to use CVA’s social prescribing platform to identify services and make referrals.
This grant will enable us to build on the 'We Stand Together' sports programme to engage refugees and people who are homeless into a regular programme of activities that directly improve their physical and mental health but also offer a range of wraparound support from community partners that will address wider determinants of health and ensure participants feel more integrated into community life in Croydon and to increase the strength of their voice to influence policy and practice.