Every week our services support refugees and migrants living in Lewisham, providing access to practical, educational and emotional support that improves their confidence and helps them to rebuild their lives.
2016 marks our tenth year of operation welcoming and supporting refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants in our local community to access the skills and knowledge they need to live independently and make a contribution.
We have assisted over 1,000 people each year to settle in the local community and support themseleves and their families. This page contains stories and interviews with the refugees who come to us and the staff who help them.
The Rainbow Club
BREAKING OUT - RAXIA’S STORY
The world today is facing unprecedented levels of conflict and displacement. According to the UN, there are now over 59 million people forcibly displaced from their homes, more than at any other time since records began. People like Raxia, who left Afghanistan aged 11 and arrived in London unaccompanied. She had experienced violence and loss, had no formal education, and spoke very little English. She was housed by social services in a local hostel, and then to help address her social isolation and anxiety, her doctor referred her to Action for Refugees in Lewisham (AFRIL).
Raxia joined the Rainbow Club and a volunteer teaching assistant was recruited to help with one-to-one literacy, numeracy and art sessions. The teacher had a fine art degree and was attending an art therapy course. She was able to draw on her knowledge and skills in art to enable Raxia to begin talking and engaging. Slowly Raxia learned the English alphabet and was able to use calligraphy to write beautifully and make drawings. Raxia attended one-to-one sessions for six months and during this time her self-confidence, social and literacy/numeracy skills improved considerably so that she was able to join a local secondary school.
OVERCOMING BARRIERS – LEWIS’S STORY
Lewis has always been a bright and lovely boy, adventurous and eager to make friends but unfortunately while he was growing up he had difficulties with speech that made him fall behind his peers. I did not know what to do or who to ask for help because we were new to this country.
A friend told me about AFRIL five years ago, when Lewis was 6. I attended their advice centre to ask what to do about our immigration status and this was when I found out about the Rainbow Club. I enrolled Lewis and soon after started coming out of his shell. Meeting other children with language problems like him helped him and soon he was making friends and trying his best to learn as much as possible. His confidence was boosted so much that his school noticed the change as well. Fairbeats also helped him a lot, he learned a lot about music and playing his ukulele helped him express himself when he didn’t know what to say. AFRIL has been very important in my children’s lives since they started going, they have friends there and I do too. When I think of AFRIL I think of family, even though we all come different places, we are all family, a family of different tribes. AFRIL is part of us.
OUR AWARD WINNING STUDENTS – KENNETH AND RUTH’S STORY
Grace Duru has been volunteering at AFRIL for 4 years and her son, Kenneth, has been in the club for the same amount of time working his way up through reception into Starfruit, the middle age group, class. In November 2016 he received a commendation from his head teacher for being the only child in the school to complete a difficult maths challenge. When Kenneth returned home Grace asked how he was able to complete the maths puzzle without having studied the subject and he answered without hesitation – “I learnt it all at the Rainbow Club”. This experience highlights the impact the Rainbow Club has. It is an experience that is replicated every week with all the children in the Rainbow club. By following the national curriculum and focussing on closing the attainment gap we provide the children from a very under-served community a unique opportunity to succeed. Kenneth’s success is just one of the many small differences that the Rainbow Club is making to these children and their future education.
When Jia Yi first came to us she had problems with language delay. We could not understand her very easily. As time went by she began to like books. We could understand what she was saying. Now she is beginning to practice using new words. Jia Yi started reading and has moved to the top group. She is most helpful and very caring. Jia Yi’s writing and maths have improved and she is now very confident.
Read poems from the Rainbow Club children. Rainbow Club Poems.pdf (1.3 MB)
AFRIL's advice service
LEAVE TO REMAIN - MISS D'S STORY
Miss D has lived in the UK for six years. She is a foreign national and has a British born son. She currently has Leave to Remain in the UK for two and a half years as the parent of a British child and this leave is due to expire. This status has a limitation with regard to recourse to public funds. She is also pregnant with her second son due in August. She is employed and unable to claim maternity allowance due to her not having been employed for at least one year. Furthermore, she is staying with a friend who is a tenant. The friend has decided to give notice on his tenancy so has told Miss D that she and her son have to move out.
We assisted Miss D with an application to extend her leave to remain based on her being the primary carer of a British child. We also requested that due to her being ineligible for maternity pay, the impending birth of her second child, and her precarious housing situation, she is likely to be destitute and require the assistance of public funds. We also suggested that she get in touch with social services. Miss D has now been given accommodation through Lewisham social services and is awaiting the outcome of her application.
See more stories from refugees and migrants using AFRIL's advice service.
Read our interview with immigration advice service lawyer, Paulette Bijac
FINDING HIS VOICE - A LEARNER FROM AFGHANISTAN
One learner from Afghanistan in the pre-entry class was initially very quiet and shy. As she relaxed and recalled the learning process from her past, she spoke more confidently and her handwriting changed as she held the pen on the page for longer in cursive writing. This could be seen clearly when comparing her pre-course assessment work and her summative assessments at the end of the course. Her reading also improved very much.
EMPLOYMENT SKILLS - A LEARNER FROM CHINA
Another learner from China had previously worked as a dentist’s assistant, but now cares for her two children and supports her husband, who works in a Soho restaurant. She learnt to present herself at volunteering opportunities, write her CV, started to learn to drive and was so confident as to use the library and access English classes at a children’s centre elsewhere. She now has the means to move around more easily and the skills to access facilities on offer.
One of our volunteers interviewed ESOL students and teachers about their experiences of the classes. AFRIL Summer Newsletter New English Language classes (1).pdf (333.5 KB)
ESOL Entry 1 & 2: 24 students a total of 120 hours with an attached Crèche: 10 children; a total of 120 hours
Rainbow Club: 65 children, for a total of 126 hours' teaching.
Advice service: 196 appointments with advisors
"I have seen children improve the way they communicate and interact with adults and the way they express their feelings. This progress is greatly encouraging and rewarding."
- Former Rainbow Club Manager
"This year we have had some great achievements while dealing with great challenges. We have managed to make our service users’ lives brighter, helped them to feel more confident, relaxed and feel that their voices were not just being heard but listened to."
- Alekta Hystuma, Advice Service Worker