A football programme dedicated to supporting young refugees and asylum seekers living in Oxfordshire has been expanded following a successful first full year of activity.
Launched in June 2021, Refugee Football Group is delivered jointly by city-based charities Oxford United in the Community, Asylum Welcome and Refugee Resource.
The weekly programme works with up to 25 refugees and asylum seekers at a time via fun football-based activities and helps participants to connect with likeminded individuals while developing valuable life skills including teamwork and communication.
In a major boost to the project, BUCS Football Accredited University Oxford Brookes has provided its sports facilities and resources so delivery can be doubled in 2023 through twice weekly sessions.
Mark Thomas, Social Inclusion Lead at Oxford United in the Community, said expanding the project will help people fulfil new goals and ambitions.
“To broaden our delivery and impact is a great way to start the new year and we’re grateful to Asylum Welcome, Refugee Resource and Oxford Brookes for their ongoing support,” said Mark.
“Football acts as a release for those we work with. It helps them to forget about the past and concentrate on working together as a team.
“Last year, all our participants could not speak English when they arrived in the UK. The progress they have made since then both on and off the pitch epitomises how football holds the power to change people’s lives.
“We hope our Refugee Football Group can continue to help refugees and asylum seekers feel inspired through 2023.”
In addition to developing new skills and friendships, the project also allows participants to play in competitive matches with local schools.
Last summer, the team was invited by St Edward’s School to play a summer-term friendly which they won 6-1 before being treated to food and drinks after full-time where players from both teams shared their experiences and love for sport.
It comes at a time where the latest Government statistics show the number of asylum applications made in the UK in the year ending June 2022 increased by 77% to 63,089 – the highest number for almost two decades.
Jacqueline Adusei, CEO at Refugee Resource, added: “We’re really excited to be working with Oxford Brookes University and our other local partners on this new provision that will have a remarkable impact on the lives of the young men taking part.
“It really is life-changing in its ability to not only provide a source of physical fitness and wellbeing, but to connect these young men who have fled war and conflict to new friends and communities, so that they may feel welcome and safe here in the UK.”
Jess Beagant, Youth Service Coordinator at Asylum Welcome, added: “We’re delighted the football sessions are being extended to start the new year.
“They are a great space for our young clients to come together, exercise, train and meet other young people. We could not be prouder of all the hard work and progress the team made in 2022 and we hope the programme is just as successful this year.”
Further information about Oxford United in the Community and its work to transform the lives of those it works using the power of football can be founded by visiting its website – www.ouitc.org.
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