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Student-led Refugee Organisation in Leeds

This guest post was written by one of our undergraduate students, Tim Spinks:

At the beginning of last semester, Aden ‘Garad’ Mohammed and I (both students in PIR) decided to set up a charity to assist refugees and asylum seekers in Leeds. We wanted to improve the support network available to displaced communities, whilst simultaneously breaking down the social barriers that exist between them. With Aden himself coming from a refugee background, we realised that many of the problems displaced peoples face in their day-to-day lives are often overlooked, and with a little drive and determination the support network available to them could be improved. The charity we created is called Action Interactive International and our mission statement is to “Bring dignity to the displaced and the disempowered through inclusivity, interaction and the inspiration of hope”.

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Since forming the organisation, Aden and I have been in regular meetings with local community and charity figureheads, developing an extensive network and receiving lots of advice and support along the way. For our first event ‘Football 4 All’ which was held last month, we wanted to bring different migrant and host communities together through the medium of sports. We held a 5 a side football tournament and cultural event in Harehills, that was designed to promote unity in the community, showcase Sub-Saharan culture and allow people to show off their skills on the pitch!

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Through our network, we were able to get teams from the Somali, Sudanese and Eritrean communities, whilst one of our volunteers called Darcy managed to get a team from the University of Leeds – it was an amazing mix of people. Some friends from the international society and I cooked huge amounts of vegetable Biryani, jollof rice, plantain and roasted jerk sweet potato and butternut squash; whilst Aden made lots of samosas. No one went hungry. We also had a sound system there that was playing East African and Swahili music throughout the tournament, with the Somalis teaching everyone their signature dance – the Dhaanto – in between games. Some of our friends from an NGO called ‘No Going Back’ organised a clothes giveaway for the event, whilst a publication called ‘Without Borders’ gave away free magazines containing lots of useful information to help migrants who have just arrived in Leeds. There was also a camera crew there capturing all the action.

 

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The tournament was a fantastic success and we had around 60 people turn up, with a solid team of volunteers too. Everyone enjoyed the event and the football tournament got really intense towards the closing stages, with the Somali A team fending off a spirited Sudanese comeback in the final to win 4-2.
 
Aden and I would like to thank everyone who helped us organise ‘Football 4 All’, particularly Ryan Frankland from the SU, and all the players and spectators who made the day so memorable. We are looking forward to putting on similar events in the future. In the meantime, we will be working with various groups from the university and the wider community, to build projects and initiatives that can further support refugees and asylum seekers in Leeds. Over the next two years mine and Aden’s goal is to help make Leeds Beckett an official ‘University of Sanctuary’, with the long term dream of making Action Interactive International a transnational organisation based in East Africa.
 
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