Marsh Refugee Volunteer Awards

These Awards are run in partnership with the Refugee Council and recognise five volunteer-led projects which provide services to refugees and asylum seekers across England. The Awards recognise projects run within the Refugee Council’s four core services:

•Resettlement Services – (Gateway Protection Programme)
•Destitution or Therapeutic Casework Services
•Children’s Section
•Integration Servicese

Nominations for the Award are made via the Refugee Council and are judged in partnership with the MCT.

Barnsley Refugee Advice Project , Sheffield One World Choir, Health Access for Refugees Project, 'Step by Step' Homework Club, Exploring Brighton Project 2019

Barnsley Refugee Advice Project – Men’s Group
The Men’s Group is a space where asylum seeking men can talk, share and support one another. They hold sessions and discussions on men’s physical health and mental health awareness as well as discussions relating to the community in Barnsley. The men at the group have built a strong and trusting bond with one another and the Award will enable them to plan future well-being activities.

One World Choir, Sheffield
One World Choir is a project that arose to achieve positive social change through the development of a welcoming and vibrant community choir, particularly for asylum seekers and refugees in Sheffield. The project helps break down barriers amongst people of different ethnic backgrounds – the current set list includes songs in Swahili, Arabic, English and Shona – and enables people to build confidence and new friendships. The Award will help to subsidise transport costs, provide childcare during performance rehearsals, provide refreshments and print promotional materials.

Health Access for Refugees Project (HARP), Barnsley
The English for Health class runs on a weekly basis and teaches clients about health access, their healthcare needs and how to communicate these. The project is open to asylum seeker and refugee men, women and children, who all experience a great benefit from attending the classes. The Award will be used to purchase resources for the class and will be put towards bus passes to help make the classes more accessible.

‘Step by Step’ Homework Club, Leeds
At the Homework Club, volunteers assist learners with a variety of different homework including English, Maths, Science and even Philosophy. The Award will be put towards a day out in York for the group. This will be a chance for the learners to visit a new city, experience new surroundings, and learn outside the classroom. The trip will allow the volunteers to engage with all learners, rather than just on a one-to-one basis, and will help the Homework Club to bond as a team.

Exploring Brighton
The Children’s Centre in Croydon plans to take a group of children who regularly attend ESOL classes on a day trip to visit Brighton. This will enable them to learn more about the history and geography of the UK, and the activities throughout the day will link in with English language learning themes including using maps, giving directions, using public transport and taking part in healthy activities.

Previous Winners

Therapeutic Horticulture, Photography Workshops, The Conversation Club, The Hip Hop Shakespeare Club and Dalston Destitution Monthly Music

‘Therapeutic Horticulture’ – Sheffield Allotment Project: Beth Robinson

Beth has studied therapeutic horticulture and has designed and is leading on a project that draws on Middle Eastern and African traditions of subsistence agriculture. The project develops a safe, inclusive space for Refugee Council clients and members of the wider refugee and asylum seeker community. The Award will go towards resources to facilitate the project, including a shelter, compost and water butt and developing a play area for children.

‘Photography Workshops’: Lea Endres and Aoife Doonan, London

Lea & Aoife want to use photography to tackle isolation and promote wellbeing among Refugee Council clients, allowing them to express themselves in a direct way that overcomes the language barrier. Initially the volunteers will run an introductory session where clients will be given disposable cameras to use. Following this, group trips to different places of interest will be organised, including trips to historical and touristic sites in central London, parks and to explore the neighbourhoods where clients live. All trips will be followed by a debrief session where clients will discuss their experience. They are hoping to organise a public exhibition at the end of the project to showcase the work of the clients.

‘The Conversation Club:’ Pat Durie, Barnsley, South Yorkshire

The Conversation Club is a popular class that runs weekly for over 20 refugees and asylum seekers in Barnsley, who come and practice their English language skills, play games and socialise. The Award will go towards bus passes for clients who have moved away from the area and are currently unable to attend the club. Pat also hopes to fund a trip for all members of the club to visit a place of local interest, which would incorporate English language learning activities.

‘Hip Hop Shakespeare Club’: Croydon Children’s Section Volunteers

This project is designed to encourage young people to develop new skills in performing arts by creating excitement around words and rhyming. The project will promote a positive experience of Shakespeare, music, literature and arts. Interactive sessions are designed to assist in building self-confidence and unlocking creative abilities. The workshops will be delivered throughout the summer holidays in partnership with the Hip Hop Shakespeare Company, with interpreters and volunteers to provide support.

‘Dalston Destitution Monthly Music’: Ruth Franks, London

Ruth visits clients at the destitution centre in Dalston once a month to entertain them with music and boost morale in the centre. She provides a sociable and relaxed atmosphere where clients can let their guard down and have fun. They have the opportunity to play music from their home countries and share their experiences. Ruth will use the Award to purchase an amplifier and microphone for the group so that there will be even more opportunities for clients to get involved in the sessions. She also wishes to attend a course in leadership skills for music, dealing particularly with refugees, which she hopes will further enhance the experience for her clients.

Playing Cricket – Staying Healthy; Study Skills for Asylum Seeker and Refugee Children; Sunday Lunch Club for Refugee Families; New Aspirants Project2: Small Steps Beyond Survivorhood

Children’s Section: Playing Cricket – Staying Healthy

This project will be attached to the Refugee Cricket Project which runs weekly sessions for separated children and young people, providing them with the opportunity to play cricket and also access support and advice in relation to immigration and welfare issues. The project is run throughout the year and last year was attended by 124 people. The project will provide personal cricket equipment, such as underwear, socks and boxes, which will improve the protection and the health and hygiene of participants at the Refugee Cricket Project, as there is a higher than normal risk of disease spreading among participants. Volunteers will identify the best suppliers for the kit and distribute it amongst participants, making sure that each person has their own equipment.

Study Skills for Asylum Seeker and Refugee Children

This project will enhance children’s learning as they attend educational activities and enable them to apply self-directed learning skills beyond these activities, both in school and at home. One of the key elements of the project will be teaching participants in the English language so that they are prepared for all educational activities they will partake in throughout their life. The content of the activities will be designed based on scientific evidence and the delivery will be based on children’s education principles. A translator will be present to facilitate the sessions more smoothly and sessions in four languages are currently being planned.

Resettlement Services: Sunday Lunch Club for Refugee Families

The initiative was started by volunteers, some of whom were Arabic speaking, who acquired the use of a premises and negotiated with refugee families in the area to encourage them to come together once a week to socialise with one another and cook and share food. Volunteers from the local community also attend the weekly events, one of whom is an Arabic speaker, to help the families integrate into the local community, and encourage them to share ideas about future events that they could coordinate together. It is hoped that the project, although already in place, can expand to cover a wide range of social activities for refugee and local families alike, such as sewing or gardening groups, and also more practical help which will help them assimilate into the community.

Destitution and Therapeutic Casework: New Aspirants Project2: Small Steps Beyond Survivorhood

The aim of this project is to build on the already successful New Aspirants Project 1, whereby young adult asylum seekers are assisted in their ‘transition’ to create a future for themselves in a country that is different from their birth. NAP 2 will focus more on peer mentoring and encouraging people to share their problems and express their emotions in a safe group environment. They hope to set up additional workshops within each session of the programme to test the model and if it is successful then it is hoped that the framework can be extended to other areas of the service. The NAP 2 Project will introduce Solution-Focus techniques to these young asylum seekers, and encourage them to aim for their dreams and aspirations to give themselves a better future.

Let’s Eat!, ESOL Teaching and Learning, New Beginnings, Mother and Toddler Group, Personal and Professional Development Workshops

Children’s Section: Let’s Eat!

This project teaches young people how to make simple meals, about food hygiene and health and safety, about nutrition and healthy eating and budgeting for food shopping over a six week course. It is aimed towards unaccompanied minors, especially those living in semi-independent accommodation who have to shop and cook for themselves.

Resettlement (Gateway Protection Programme): ESOL Teaching and Learning

This project aims to develop the quality of teaching already provided at the ESOL teaching sessions on a weekly basis and enhance learner outcomes. The Award was given to provide the volunteer teachers with teaching resources, visual aids and stationery for the students. The sessions gave students the opportunity to develop their English outside of the classroom while also learning more about the local culture and history in the area.

Therapeutic Services: New Beginnings, Mother and Toddler Group

This project enhances the existing Mother and Toddler Group by incorporating music as a healing and therapeutic element, complementing the already stimulating and supportive environment that it offers. Music and song provides another way in which mothers and children can interact and it greatly facilitates the language development of the children.

Integration Services: Personal and Professional Development Workshops

This project works to increase the employability of clients by providing them with the opportunity to develop their skills through a series of structured workshops. The workshop, ‘Managing the Recruitment Process’ helps clients to understand the recruitment process from the eyes of the recruiter, through activities such as designing job descriptions and conducting interviews.

Young People’s Discovery Arts, Refugee Women International Cuisine Project, The Writing Project, Employability Skills Development  

Children’s Section – Young People’s Discovery Arts 

This project focused on young unaccompanied migrants and engaged participants in all forms of art to help them explore their identity and the world around them. Visual art is a powerful way in which young people, and especially those who do not speak a lot of English, can express themselves. The activities focused on different art methods and techniques and was led by the interest of the young people taking part in the group.

Resettlement (Gateway Protection Programme) – Refugee Women International Cuisine Project 

A group of women who have accessed the Resettlement Services themselves set up a project based on sharing skills, experiences, and traditions based on cooking and baking, whilst learning about nutrition and health. The project aimed to empower women to run their own workshops and share and learn new skills based on healthy eating and cooking on a low budget.

Destitution or Therapeutic Casework Services – The Writing Project

This project brought together refugees and asylum seekers who wished to share their stories about their asylum and experience of life in a new country. The aim of the project was to put together a publication of short stories, poetry or plays and allow writers to channel any feelings of anxiety and isolation.

Integration Services – Employability Skills Development 

This project is run by a team of volunteers and provides advice and information for clients looking for employment in the UK. It helps them to learn more about the job process and develop the skills they need to secure employment. Workshops engage with topics such as job searching, understanding the application process, writing CVs and cover letters and developing interview skills. 

Express Yourself!, Hull Refugee Women’s Group,  New Aspirants Project, Getting to Know the Education System in the UK 

Children’s Section – Express Yourself! 

The Children’s section of the Refugee Council runs weekly social events for unaccompanied asylum seeking and refugee children. They have worked with Croydon Council who have offered a venue to deliver a youth led talent show for young people. The show offers workshops in areas such as photography, dance and poetry. The event provides a platform through which talented young people can be identified. Young people are involved at all stages of the event which encourages them to develop skills such as planning, organisation and working in a team.

Resettlement (Gateway Protection Programme) – Hull Refugee Women’s Group 

This group is made up of refugee women and volunteers who come together to carry out activities designed to help refugee women to build skills and confidence. The group carries out a range of activities, such as cooking, arts and crafts, dance and learning English. It offers a place where women with similar experiences can come together and create a supportive network.

Destitution or Therapeutic Casework Services – New Aspirants Project 

This project supports refugee young adults, helping them to develop their skills and career aspirations, whilst providing psychological support. It identifies the ambitions of young people and helps build upon their skills, such as art, music, or maths, to realise their potential. The project aims to recreate a family setting where young people are supported by mentors and can help each other.

Integration Services – Getting to Know the Education System in the UK 

This project runs a number of workshops on the education system in the UK for refugee parents with children of a school age. Delivered by volunteers, the programme offers information in areas such as how to search and apply for school places, the National Curriculum and core subjects, the examination system and how to help children with their homework.

Still Lives Photography Project, Life in Suffolk, Refugee Voices:

Still Lives Photography Project 
This project works with asylum seekers and their children living in the Stone Road Hostel in Birmingham, and others in the local community, to create a display that reflects the life and journey of an asylum seeker. The project uses still and moving photography images as well as oral testimonies. The photography project links into the creative and therapeutic activities organised by the Children’s Group, Women’s Group and Allotment Project.

Ken Windsor and Evariste Kanamugire from Life in Suffolk
The project provides support to asylum seekers and refugees in Suffolk, helping them to know more about the British way of life; about the history and customs of everyday life; and about Britain’s laws and the general do’s and don’ts they should look to follow. The aim of the project is to help provide an easier and smoother integration into a mixed and multicultural British society and to encourage greater acceptance of asylum seekers and refugees living in Suffolk.

Kimberly Thompson from Refugee Voices: A Collaborative Drama Workshop and Performance 
The project focuses on developing a series of client centred drama workshops around the long and difficult journeys of asylum seekers and refugees. The project culminated in a public performance giving voice to those so often made voiceless and rendered invisible. The project worked in partnership with Ice and Fire, a London based theatre group, with a long-track record working with asylum seekers and refugees in the UK.

The Post Decision Form Filling Service, Stone Road Hostel Women’s Club, Leeds Women’s Group, New Roots Support Group

The Post Decision Form Filling Service

This project provides invaluable support to refugees who have been granted Leave to Remain. Experienced volunteer advisors offer assistance to complete post decision forms including Travel Documents, Citizenship Forms and Passport applications, which are complicated, time consuming and very expensive.

The work of the volunteers is crucial as they provide all the necessary documents that are sent to the Home Office and help them fill out the forms. They make phone calls to other organisations and the Home Office to gather required information

Stone Road Hostel Women’s Club

This project aims to improve the experience of women at the Stone Road hostel in Birmingham and provide them with knowledge that will help them and their families when they leave the hostel. The sessions are scheduled to be held weekly and revolve around healthcare, education, handicrafts, leisure and cultural activities. It will provide a forum for women and their children to meet and discuss, share experiences and be heard.

Leeds Women’s Group

The project provides a warm, welcoming, safe environment for women and their young children from refugee backgrounds. It helps build confidence in women, empower them and most of all to support their emotional and mental wellbeing. The women’s group is also a place women can make friends, share their culture, learn to enhance their English, be more aware on information sessions, learn and share skills, and participate in various activities and more.

New Roots Support Group

The Project aims to provide a safe and secure space for small groups of asylum seekers on a weekly basis, to come together and gather and develop skills, discuss their experiences and develop ways of dealing with traumatic experiences and hardships. They work with qualified volunteers in Art Therapy, Relaxation and Yoga techniques with therapeutic background.

Saideh Ghorishe from 'A Helping Hand’.

Saiedeh Ghorishe won the 2011 Marsh Refugee Volunteer Award for her project ‘A Helping Hand’.

The Purpose of this project is to provide sleeping bags for clients who are destitute/homeless and therefore cannot access mainstream accommodation, having to rely on donations, particularly during the cold winter months.

The project also provides warm winter clothes for clients at the Refugee Council One Stop Service centre in Leeds, including hats, gloves, scarves, socks etc.

In addition to this project, Saiedeh used the Award to provide toys for children to play with while in the waiting area of the One Stop Service in Leeds.

Boaz Atwine from 'Refugee Community First Aid'Project

Refugee Community First Aid Project

Boaz Atwine has helped to design a project to work with the British Red Cross (Community Based First Aid team) to train up volunteers to become First Aid Peer educators. They will then offer first aid sessions to local Refugee Community Organisations.

Research found that refugees and asylum seekers lacking language skills or adequate information may not be in a position to negotiate their entitlements to healthcare or may simply lack understanding about entitlements to healthcare. Therefore it is important that people living in these communities are equipped to deal with medical emergencies until help arrives.

Working with the British Red Cross, Boaz and other volunteers delivered first aid training to 10 volunteers so they become certified first aiders and gained the skills and confidence needed to pass information on to others.

Sarah Bradley

Sarah Bradley won the 2009 Marsh Refugee Volunteer Award for a Homework Club at Stone Road Hostel. Volunteers ran the cub and provided assistance to students with their homework. The club provided a suitable venue for study, with all necessary equipment, and ran on a regular basis.

New Arrivals Project

The New Arrivals Project aims to provide workshops for asylum seekers newly arrived in the UK. This involved a two-day induction and orientation workshop to enable clients to navigate local and general services in the UK.