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Upbeat Communities - helping refugees rebuild their lives

person Maddie De Soyza
4 min

Upbeat Communities has been helping refugees and asylum seekers to rebuild their lives in the UK since 2005.

“For me Upbeat was like a lifesaver. Having a life back home and coming into loneliness, uncertainty and confusion and then you find a family called Upbeat... It was like a light.”

Dola (a refugee and Upbeat Participant) arrived in Derby during lockdown after fleeing a dangerously violent country. By joining Upbeat Women, a weekly support group for refugee women, she was able to enjoy creative activities and access information about local groups that could help her. But on top of this, she told us that Upbeat provided helpful structure and routine:

“Back home I had a very busy life, I had children to look after, I had work to go to. Upbeat was like a way of bringing back all those activities I missed and all the things that were putting me into depression.

I have so many things that I have to battle every day of my life. But coming to Upbeat Women is like you get to leave your mind back home, forget about everything and just come and play. And know that there is something good out of life.”

Upbeat Communities give people the chance to connect with others in a similar situation, build friendships, learn English and be supported in whatever ways they need, from temporary accommodation, to providing for the needs of new mothers, and lots in between.

In the last year, we have supported hundreds of people from 35 different nations including Afghanistan and Ukraine. We are proud to welcome people from places that make the headlines in the UK, as well as those that don’t.

One of the biggest barriers to refugees integrating in the UK and making their home here is not being able to speak the language. People seeking sanctuary aren’t allowed to access free language classes at college until they have been in the UK for at least 6 months. Upbeat helps to fill this gap by providing free English classes for people, whether they have just arrived, or have been here for years.

But more than this, Upbeat English classes give people a place to go, a reason to get up in the morning, and the opportunity to make lasting friendships. Shahin (Upbeat Participant) experienced this for himself, after escaping persecution in the Middle East:

“When I arrived at Upbeat and attended the English class I soon realized that Upbeat was more than just a language class. It was literally a community. A wonderful place which gave everyone who came in that feeling that you are not alone, you have friends who care about you, wonderful friends you can count on for any help. Where you are respected without any discrimination. Where you can not only learn English, but also participate in some trips, have a happy day and get to know the goodness and beauty of English culture.”

All our projects at Upbeat are aimed at welcoming the stranger, as Jesus Christ demonstrated. For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ (Matthew 25:35-36 NIV)

Our Welcome Boxes project gives people newly arrived in the UK a warm welcome and a box of gifts and essentials. A volunteer can offer a point of connection when everything is new and bewildering. This is what happened for Camila and her family, who arrived having fled violence in Central America:

“At first, we were probably just looking for English classes when we arrived and then we met Einir and Elliot (Upbeat Staff). They came to our house as well with their Welcome Box, and that’s something that really surprised us because you are not expecting to receive anything from anyone. If you want help, it’s like you have to ask for help. But for someone to come to your house, that’s amazing. Then, Upbeat became like our home because we were part of something.

My favourite thing about Upbeat is that you give community; you are giving to people and not expecting anything back. Anyone who comes asking for help, they receive it, and they receive more: they receive friendship, and they receive home. Upbeat gives a reason why you want to be properly part of Derby.”

You can support and find out more about Upbeat Communities here Upbeat Communities | Stewardship

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Maddie De Soyza