A new football volunteering initiative to integrate young refugees and asylum seekers in the local community is set to start in March.
The project will consist of weekly training sessions in the Bournemouth area and focus on promoting social integration and wellbeing.
Student Action for Refugees Bournemouth (STAR), a student-led charity, partnered up with the Bournemouth Council for Voluntary Service and the leading refugee charity in Dorset, International Care Network (ICN), to set up this sport scheme.
The idea has been very well received by possible participants. A young refugee expressed his excitement:
I’m very happy to join a football team because that’s one of my lifetime dreams and I’ll try to be the best footballer I can.”
On Wednesday, STAR representatives met with Dr Steven Keen, the Separated Children Seeking Asylum Manager at ICN to discuss final details. Funding has been secured by Bournemouth Borough Council, who together with ICN and other local organisations, won a bid to the Home Office of £93.000 for a series of projects.
The aim is to set up two teams of 6 players each with the participation of both young refugees and student volunteers. Starting on the 6th March, the teams will play competitively in a local league every Tuesday evening on Bournemouth University‘s very own pitches.
Dr Keen stressed the importance of promoting the idea of inclusion, by bringing together university students and young people that are seeking asylum in the UK:
We’d like to move to a point where the asylum seekers that we work with are more fully integrated with British society and one of the ways of doing that is via sport because the teamwork and competition is just such a great leveller.”
To complement the tournament with training, AFC Bournemouth are inviting the teams to join the weekly Sunday Kicks sessions at the Vitality Stadium.
The Kicks programme is a chance for Premier League teams to deliver free football sessions to their local communities. The Bournemouth programme offers this to a variety of ages at pitches across the area.
Daryl Hobson, AFC Bournemouth’s Premier League Kicks officer, explains why football will help with the integration of young asylum seekers and refugees:
Kicks doesn’t currently target the local refugee community and Daryl is hoping to change that:
Sport clubs across the country have proven to be successful when helping refugees and asylum seekers integrate into their communities.
For example, Brixton’s refugee cricket programme helps young Afghan men learn English, process asylum claims and recover from traumas in their lives. Moreover, Hull City FC set up football lessons for refugees for people to improve their language skills while getting a chance to socialise.
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by Nina Nagel, Poppy Bullen, Denise Minichini and Lucy Thomas