Open Arms Project – Connecting Refugees and Asylum Seekers with Local Residents

Open Arms is a way for long-term residents to get to know refugees and asylum seekers who are living in their area – as meeting face to face and forming friendships can help people understand more about the asylum system and reduce prejudice towards those within it. The British Red Cross wants to help bring communities together through free activities where people can meet and enjoy shared interests, such as football or family life. The emphasis is not on getting to know someone because they are an asylum seeker – but rather because of what people have in common.

This pilot project is in full swing and through the Open Arms Grant has recently awarded 13 community groups across Greater Manchester and Liverpool with funding to host community engagement activities. There are a variety of activities taking place including; street parties, family cooking, parent and child groups, football training sessions, art classes, women’s wellbeing and exercise classes, choir groups, pottery workshops and boxfit sessions.

The activities are completely free and open to everyone, with some already starting July and August and others launching in September 2017. These activities will be closely monitored throughout to measure how settled and satisfied people from both community groups feel.

Activities taking place in Liverpool:

  • Women’s Health Information & Support Centre (WHISC) on Bold Street runs a women’s Saturday Club (11am – 2pm) every week which enables people to meet and chat over a cup of tea, receive emotional support and take part in Zumba classes or nail art.
  • Tree House Liverpool CIC in Tuebrook is hosting a ‘Taste of Home’ event on Sunday 10 September (10am – 3pm) which will see a number of cooks come together to prepare their version of home cooking. On the day people can enjoy complimentary food prepared by the cooks and take part in arts and crafts. Tree House also run a roster of free activities in Newsham Park, where they are based, from yoga to maintaining the public garden.
  • The Rotunda over the summer holidays the team organised free family pottery sessions. Activities will be starting up again for the October half term – full details tbc.
  • From mid-September Liverpool Lighthouse in Anfield will be hosting free coffee sessions and running a brand new choir group, perfect for people with an interest in music or would like to improve their singing in a welcoming environment.
  • From mid-September Sola Arts in Toxteth will be extending its arts therapy sessions on Friday afternoons, opening up its studio to anyone who would like to express themselves creatively.
  • Tuebrook Community Centre and Boxing Club will be running boxfit sessions for people aged 18 or over on Tuesday evenings, 7pm – 8pm. From Tuesday 19 September people can visit the centre to improve fitness and learn a new sport for free.
  • Homebaked will be offering free group baking sessions where people can taste everything they make – start date tbc, but within 2017

If you would like to find out more about the Open Arms pilot project or for activity posters, contact Katy Curley, British Red Cross Campaign Coordinator, at openarms@redcross.org.uk.

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