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The first Syrian refugees enter the UK

Violence and civil unrest in Syria has led to UK Government offering resettlement places to the most vulnerable Syrian families. Since the last week of March, the first of these families has begun arriving in the country to rebuild their lives in safety.

‘The arrival of the first refugees will transform, if not save people’s lives’, says Maurice Wren, Chief Executive of The Refugee Council. ‘It marks an extremely significant watershed in the UK’s response to the humanitarian catastrophe gripping the country and its surrounding areas.’

Opening UK borders could help many Syrians build their lives again and the government has insisted that the programme is going to be needs rather than numbers tested. However, current government plans to support only several hundred refugees over the next three years could also mean tens of thousands of families continue to face exposure to dangerous living conditions back in Syria.

‘Over 2.5 million refugees have now fled the conflict and as a result, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is now calling on governments around the world to help resettle 130,000 people over the next three years,’ adds Wren.

But what help is available for those who do arrive here? Under the Government’s Vulnerable Person’s Relocation scheme, refugees will be granted five years’ humanitarian protection and will be able to access to public funds once they enter the country.

As well as standard housing and benefits, however, these families will need help accessing a wide range of support so they can integrate fully.  Finding out about entitlements to healthcare and where to access it, filling out school applications, learning English and building links within the local community are just some of the activities which organisations like KKF can assist with.

Klevis Kola has already begun working with our first Syrian referrals and we expect to see this number increasing over the coming months as more refugees arrive under the new scheme.

Meet-and-greet with MP Sadiq Khan

We met up with Tooting MP Sadiq Khan as he prepares to run the Virgin Money London Marathon and raise some cash for charities like KKF!

Last Friday during half-term, a few lucky KKF members laced up their trainers and headed down to Tooting Bec Athletics Track to discover why local MP Sadiq Khan (and KKF patron) is running the London Marathon this April - the biggest marathon event of the year.

At a grisly 26 miles across town, running a marathon is no easy feat, even if you are relatively fit. Despite his lack of jogging experience, Sadiq needed little persuasion to sign up once he knew it could help charities like KKF continue their essential work in the local community.

‘When I was first asked to run, I said “no way!”’ joked Sadiq during the chat. ‘But finding out I’d raise money for groups like KKF, I couldn’t refuse. I’ve seen how Klevis Kola work with young asylum-seekers and refugees to keep them constructively engaged, which is vital for the community.’

He went to explain the importance of youth support and the danger of the media de-humanising minority groups, which can result in society turning against them. ‘We need to break down stereotypes about asylum-seekers, immigrants and young people. Instead, we must encourage their confidence and self-esteem so they can fulfill their potential.’

As well as talking about KKF and the London Marathon, the kids also got the opportunity to grill Sadiq about life as an MP and discuss their own career hopes. A straw poll revealed that the majority of girls want to work with kids when they’re older, while the boys are mostly budding footballers.

Finally, the day couldn’t have been complete without a track race against the MP. While neither side managed to give Mo Farah a run for his money (as Sadiq hopes to do in April), we all had a fun day together and KKF got a rare chance to discuss their experiences and get some career tips from a leading political figure.

Sadiq and over 35,000 runners will be pounding the pavements for UK’s biggest charity run on 13th April. Good luck to everyone who is taking part – see you at the finish line!

If you want to know more about our day with Sadiq Khan, click here for the full Evening Standard feature on Sadiq Khan and KKF.

KKF on the track with Sadiq Khan!

KKF on the track with Sadiq Khan!

2013 in numbers

The numbers are in! Here are the facts and figures for KKF’s projects in 2013…

Youth Club

We saw 45 young people (aged 10-18) at Youth Club with an average of 20 people per session. 10 of those were unaccompanied minors.

14 new members were welcomed, with over a third of these having been in the UK for less than just three months and a further 50% for two years at most. The remaining 14% had previously been attending After-School Club.

Mentoring

There were 9 active pairs in 2013.

Mentoring relationships usually last at least a year for maximum benefit. Three relationships ended within this time-frame last year due to mentees moving away from the area - one back to their country of origin. Young people identified as being at high-risk remain a priority. The waiting list is long at 27, and an objective for 2014 is to increase our mentoring provision to reach these children.

We have 27 young people on our waiting list. With over 3/4 of our pairs being female, we are in particular need of male mentors. If this is something you might be interested in, get in touch at kleviskola@gmail.com.

Education Outreach

The Education Outreach programme worked with 23 young people, with an average attendance of 9 sessions per person. Beneficiaries originate from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Somalia, Pakistan and Albania, and almost a third were unaccompanied.

ESOL

The ESOL class saw 10 students, with an average attendance of six and current class size of eight.

One-to-one support

In 2013 KKF provided weekly one-to-one support to 16 young people, with the current number in the New Year standing at 12. Over half are unaccompanied minors and/or newly arrived. Four of these young people reported difficulties in the school/college environment, such as bullying, exclusion, delays in securing places and academic struggles. 4% had no experience of formal education.

The majority of referrals come from foster carers and workers in supported housing.

Women’s Project

The majority of women involved with the Cooking Project and Coffee Morning Project were of Somali origin, with the rest representing a large number of countries such as Iraq, Libya and Spain. Word of mouth publicity has drawn in the most new members, with a further 40% joining due to their existing involvement with the previously named ‘Coffee Afternoon’ Project. A very small minority are referred either by the Outreach Project or an external organisation.

After-school Club

There were 10 new children at After-school Club in 2013 and each session had an average attendance of 30. 11 of the attending children classified as newly-arrived.

Advocacy

We delivered our advocacy service to 99 people in 2013. 82 were of Somali origin, with the others originating from Eritrea, Pakistan, DRC, Afghanistan, Algeria and Somaliland. There were 669 advocacy sessions, 162 of those being a follow-up to an initial appointment. Again, word of mouth proved particularly effective in that 73 of the 93 referrals came about in this way, with the remainder made by KKF clients. Benefits and housing were the topics most discussed.

We’re pleased to say that we’re now providing support to refugee and asylum-seeking families in the London borough of Croydon as well as Wandsworth, Lambeth and Merton. Looking ahead to the next 5 years, we are implementing an agreed strategy to build on last year’s successes. We aim to provide specialist support for separated children, including psychological support. Our Outreach service will be expanded and we will be developing our monitoring and evaluation systems the entire organisation. Identifying the main areas of concern for our advocacy clients, we will be deepening our knowledge of housing and benefits policies. Last but not least, we will be devoting time to training some of our beneficiaries as volunteers.

Here’s to another great year!

KKF volunteer social!

Join us at The Exhibit on Station Road in Balham this Sunday for a KKF volunteer social and pub quiz.

Come along at 6pm for a leisurely drink and to meet and greet new and old faces. The quiz will get going at 6:30pm and cover a breadth of topics, so you’re bound to have your moment. For extra incentive you’ll be in with the chance of winning a two-hour private cinema screening for up to 24 people at The Exhibit, on a date to be negotiated with staff.

Don’t worry about not having enough people for a team. Just RSVP on our Facebook event page - feel free to ‘join’ if you’re not already on the guest list - and we’ll sort everything out. Guests are welcome and admission is free.

See you then!

Racist bullying in schools reaching a high

A recent article in The Independent states that the charity Childline saw a dramatic increase in calls in 2013 made by children experiencing racist bullying at school. A large number of youngsters experiencing such harassment are Muslim; poor media representation of the religion has led to ingrained stereotypes, with Muslim children being called names such as ‘terrorist’ and ‘bomber’. As the Klevis Kola Foundation has learned from our work with refugee and asylum seeking children and young people, moving to a new country with a vastly differing culture can be a distressing time, particularly when fleeing conflict. A language barrier can prove difficult enough when faced with keeping up with a new curriculum and school system, but becomes potentially unbearable when other children draw negative attention to it with terms such as ‘freshie’.

Sue Minto of Childline affirms that racist bullying is far more of an issue in the school environment than it is online – a statement that many might find surprising. One would have thought that the rise of social media sites and platforms for expression, coupled with a high level of PC, tablet and smart phone ownership mean that young people have more opportunity than ever to create and distribute malicious content and to a wide audience. The abundance of online abuse can surely also influence and misinform others, possibly leading to an increase in racial harassment. Despite Ms Minto’s claim, however, children will now be taught in schools about online safety from the age of five.

Those with the courage to call Childline and similar switchboards are likely just a few of those affected by racist bullying – for every child who speaks up, there must be hundreds of others suffering in silence. It has been found that boys are more likely to report this type of bullying. To speculate why children turn to helplines, it may be because the counsellor is detached from the child’s life; a great fear held by many children affected by bullying, as acknowledged by the article, is that disclosing their experiences to a teacher or parent will only exacerbate the problem. With racist bullying, many teachers ignore the problem, and then on the other end of the spectrum, class discussions and assemblies arranged with good intent simply encourage the very behaviour they are trying to deter. The content of these discussions may also be at odds with the beliefs of pupils’ parents, and children tend to unquestioningly adopt the views and lexicon of their parents/guardians. When such views are instilled at an early age, it may be difficult to convince children otherwise.

The Department of Education has divided £4m between organisations focussing on tackling bullying and teachers have been given the green light to take measures such as handing out same-day detentions to sanction inappropriate behaviour. Whilst these measures in schools might prevent racist bullying, it is not addressing the problem at its root – ignorance. Pupils might improve their behaviour, but this might be more out of a will to not have their possessions confiscated or spend any longer in school than necessary, rather than a desire to treat their peers with more respect. Schools need to teach children acceptance, but, as said, they risk inadvertently promoting racist bullying, and it might be difficult to undo any false beliefs already instilled in the child by family, friends and the media. Klevis Kola Foundation develops links with local schools in Wandsworth, Lambeth and Merton to raise awareness and sensitivity, and in our own clubs and sessions for children such as Youth Club and After School Club, we have a strict anti-bullying policy.



KKF AGM announcement

The Klevis Kola Foundation will be holding its AGM in 2 weeks: 29th January at 7pm.

It will be held at our office in the Trident Business Centre - all KKF members are invited to attend. Our annual report is available here on our website or upon request: sarahsibley@kleviskola.org.

Internship Vacancy - Refugee Outreach Team: Project Assistant

We’re looking for a new intern to join our Outreach Team for a period of six months (mid January to mid June). Working 1-2 days a week, you’ll play a valuable part in home visits to newly arrived asylum seekers and refugees and those experiencing difficulties.

Applications due Thursday 16th January with informal interviews to take place on Monday 20th or Thursday 23rd January 2014. We look forward to hearing from you!

New Year, new wishes, new resolutions

The KKF Team wish you all a happy 2014!

We hope that your dreams and goals will be realised, and this new year to be full of love and happiness for you and yours.
2013 has been another amazing year for us with ever more growth:
- Mother Tongue educational project began in Burntwood School
- Advocacy service developed its service in a separate office space 2 days a week
- International Women’s Coffee Afternoon moved its fortnightly meetings to a weekly Coffee Morning
- After-school Club celebrated its 10th anniversary at the Big 10 event with more than 130 volunteers, KKF members, and supporters
- Active volunteer community consists of 120 current volunteers regularly implementing our work
- KKF won several grants to sustain this growth - from Sir Walter St John Educational Charity, Wandsworth Youth Service, Help a Capital Child and Peter Minet Trust
2014 will be an even more exciting year:
- Plans to move this spring to our new home in a community centre on Derinton Road will enable the KKF community to gather in the same place.
- Improvements in our 1-to-1 approach in our currents projects and developments of new ones in family visiting.
- Building new fundraising schemes and a community of regular donors to ensure sustainability of our 5-year strategic plan.
The new year is a synonym of new resolutions… Subscribe to the gym, eat and live healthy, stop smoking, save more. We all force ourselves to respect these common ones (or others) but after a while we don’t…

KKF has one easy resolution for you: becoming a regular donor of the foundation!


You’ll help us improve our work, provide stronger support, sustain our 12 projects and simply make KKF families’ lives brighter. It only takes 5 minutes of your time.
From £1 to as much as you can each month, you can subscribe for a standing order, so you won’t have to think about it every month. Just write on the PDF form directly here, save it and e-mail it straight back to us at sarahsibley@kleviskola.org.
Within just a few days, you can achieve your new year’s resolution!
Thank you again for your support and best wishes for 2014 from all of us on the KKF team.

The Benefits Cap: an Update

In mid-December we are now beginning to feel the full effect of the London benefit cap that was implemented in stages between April and September 2013. The cap, which initially affected the London Boroughs of Bromley, Croydon, Haringey and Enfield from April 2013, spread to all Local Authorities with more than 275 affected households from July 15th, and, by 12th August, any other family that had until then slipped through the net. No borough has been left unscathed.

In June we blogged about these measures and six months later we will now examine their repercussions, in particular those on the foundation and the people with whom we work.

In July 2012 the government evaluated the implications of the proposed cap. April 2013 saw a re-evaluation of the planned strategy, with the number of estimated households affected by the measures dropping significantly from 67,000 to 40,000, a figure that presumably translates into the 80,000 affected children estimated by the Department of Work and Pensions. In addition to an increase in advocacy clients, at the Klevis Kola Foundation we have sadly seen 13 of the children we work with move away from the area and estimate that an additional 80 families will face the same prospect. For some this means being forced to move to a cheaper area of London or a nearby town, but others may move as far as Birmingham or Manchester. This relocation can be particularly distressing and disruptive for asylum seekers and refugees who may have only just begun to settle within a community. On relocating, many children face struggles to secure places in new schools, missing months of their education. Those moving into Wandsworth, instead of out of the borough like many of our beneficiaries, can access Wandsworth Interim Schools Project, which aims to provide education until more permanent arrangements can be made. What is unknown is whether similar services operate elsewhere. Moreover, disruption to education can unfortunately be just one of the many difficulties that children and their families face.

The following is a case study of a family with which KKF has worked for a long time (names changed for identity protection):-

X has a family of 6 children, including two under 3 years. X works as much as she can when the children are at school. They were living in private rented accommodation in Tooting and had been in the same house for several years. They were then served with an eviction notice shortly before the benefits cap was due to begin. They were not in arrears, and their landlord even wrote them a reference to say they were good tenants. The family were housed in B and B accommodation in Essex. Despite the distance, they all travelled to school in Wandsworth every day, a journey which could take up to 2 hours and included a change at Bank station during rush hour. X was very concerned about the safety of her children during this time, but was very clear that she wanted them to be able to continue at their school. It also cost them a considerable amount of money, meaning that they relied on friends to help with providing healthy meals for the children. They stayed at the B and B for 10 weeks. They are now in temporary accommodation in Wandsworth having been accepted as homeless. However, there is no date set for them to move, and when they do it is unlikely they will be able to afford to stay in the area.

What can be done?

For those affected or on the cusp, few measures can be taken to avoid disruption and even these have limited influence. The government has been urging all those facing financial troubles as a result of the cap to seek employment – a seemingly reasonable proposition for those able to work, and the DWP offers support for job seekers. However, with both the current lack of opportunities and wealth of poorly-paid jobs, this can only be a solution for some and not all.

And that’s just the story for a UK citizen. For asylum seekers and refugees, these limitations are compounded by a need to apply for permission to work and then be confined to fields of work within which there are shortages. Another suggestion is a negotiation with one’s landlord to lower rent, though anybody with experience of renting within the private sector will testify that this is easier said than done. We must also remember that even with the presence of community organisations such as KKF, with dedicated outreach and advocacy services, any steps refugees and asylum seekers take to safeguard themselves against these measures can be all the more challenging in a foreign and often alienating environment. We plan to support Klevis Kola families wherever possible, be they in London or elsewhere.

International Migrants Day

With International Migrant’s Day just around the corner on Wednesday 18th December, we’ll be holding an information stall on Saturday 14th December at Tooting Library from 1-4pm to mark the occasion. Do pop by if you’re in the area or doing your Christmas shopping on Mitcham Road.

Why is International Migrants Day so special? Every year on this date we have the opportunity to celebrate the diversity in our communities and break down the many misconceptions that unfortunately still exist surrounding asylum and refugees. There will be a display of related books and DVDs, a chance to see KKF’s latest video and some food from the Women’s Cooking Project.

Find us on the ground floor near the entrance. If you can’t make it down, check out the Migrant Manifesto video on affiliated campaign Our Day’s website.