Reading’s Refugees: Supporting the Sanctuary Strikers
Heralding the start of the new year and School’s switch from rugby to football for Spring Term core PE, we are delighted to welcome the Sanctuary Strikers to our astro every Wednesday evening. The group’s weekly training will prepare them for their regular matches in Division Three of the Reading and District Sunday League and we wish them every success in the coming season.
The group were founded in 2017 aiming to “promote integration by bringing together refugees and non-refugees to play football in the spirit of unity.” The Strikers Chairman, Tomson Chauke told the Reading Chronicle that “We wanted to use football to not just play football, but to connect communities.” Our outreach work with local community groups accords completely with this aim and we are pleased that they will be using our pitches. The club is also supported by a number of other Leighton Park outreach partners, including the University of Reading and KitAid, with funding and equipment.
The relationship with Reading Refugee Support Group (RRSG) was established by our Head of English as an Additional Language (EAL), Harriet Custance, back in 2017. Harriet had heard about the concept of a ‘Homework Club’ that a few other schools across the UK were running, inviting primary school-aged children of refugee families to an after-school club to help with their English. Harriet set up meetings with RRSG to see if our School could be involved in something similar. After some to and fro, it was decided that there was a greater need for older male teenagers/young adults (16-19 years olds) from countries such as Syria and the Sudan, so the plan evolved into offering football/English classes, followed by tea in the school’s Oakview restaurant. A small group of Sixth Form boys from Leighton Park were involved and the activity happened once a week after school supervised by Harriet and a member of the PE Department. The arrangement ran from September 2017 until around the end of March 2018, when many of the young men had either found jobs or had moved away from Reading.
There was also a one-off football tournament which took place on 26th June 2017 between refugees and volunteers from three refugee support groups, Reading, Oxford and Swindon. RRSG asked if they could use our pitches for this annual tournament because the pitches at the university, where they usually held the event, were unavailable that year. Of course we were happy to help.
The homework club is something that our Assistant Head: Outreach & Partnerships, Natasha Coccia, is keen to re-establish and we have had positive feedback from RRSG about running it on a Friday afternoon. It was due to begin this term but sadly, the latest Omicron restrictions mean for the time being that it is on hold. We are looking forward to welcoming young RRSG members to the Park as soon as we can, alongside those joining on a Wednesday for the Sanctuary Strikers training.
Image from 26th June: Tournament between Reading, Swindon and Oxford Refugee Support Groups