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Fresh Start
Allchurches Trust

TFC Fresh Start Coordinator Featured in Article about Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Matt Robinson, our 'Fresh Start' project coordinator has been featured in an article on the Allchurches Trust website sharing his tips on 'Welcoming refugees and asylum seekers into your church community'.

Fresh Start is an initiative pioneered by Together for Change, working with churches and other organisations in Coventry to offer a warm and welcoming environment to refugees, asylum seekers and migrants. To read more about what we do, follow the button below.

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Matt's top tips for churches reaching out to newly arrived communities:

1. Liaise with your local refugee support centre - the Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre is a key partner for us, and it was they who first developed the idea of grassroots community support groups offering spaces which bring people together. Speak to them, and map out what the existing provision is. I can almost guarantee that "more conversational English opportunities" and "more chances to play football" will be something that people are looking for!

2. Use full sentences when speaking - there is a temptation to "dumb down" your English, but I would always advise speaking slowly in full sentences, with an emphasis on the key points; for example: "what did you eat for dinner last night?" rather than "what eat dinner last night?"

3. Ensure that you let people know you can understand them - many new arrivals to this country lack confidence in their English, and fear that they will not be understood. Perhaps the most common phrase I hear is: "I'm sorry my English is no good". By nodding regularly, saying "I understand", or even repeating back what you've been told, you will really encourage people to keep speaking.

4. Use pictures / videos regularly - this could be of nice places in the UK, which then encourages people to show pictures from their country. Football highlights are always good, and perhaps the greatest hidden gem that we've got is "Mr Bean" - he seems to have been televised in just about every country on earth! Games like "Jenga" are also great as well - they require little conversation, but are a good opportunity to have fun together.

5. Learn some key phrases in their language - I have picked up a few key phrases in Arabic, and I can't stress enough how much this means to people. At the end of my Conversation Cafes, I'll always have a "your turn to teach" slot, in which I ask my group to teach me a key phrase in their language, e.g. "it's raining outside" (a very useful phrase here in the UK...). This mutual respect and desire to learn means such a lot to newly-arrived groups, and has certainly won me many friends - as well as giving them an opportunity to have a good laugh at my terrible pronunciation!

6. Keep calm and keep smiling! There will inevitably be misunderstandings, and you may even accidentally cause offence (I've lost track of the amount of times I've done this!). But if you keep being warm, smiling, and ensuring that you are conveying that you can understand some of the conversation, you will develop some really special relationships.

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Allchurches Trust have been consistently supporting the work of Together for Change with funding for a number of years, and we are honoured to feature on their website for several notable projects we have started. To read the full article, follow the button below

"Perhaps the main lesson I've learned is: Jesus comes to us in unexpected ways, often as someone who appears in need. I've truly experienced Jesus minister to me through the friendships I've developed, which has knocked me down from my somewhat arrogant initial stance of "I am going to be the one 'giving' in these relationships"

Matt Robinson - TFC Fresh Start Coordinator