From education to employment



REFUGEE WEEK (20-26 June 2022) will see NCG’s refugee support programme Our Community is Your Community launch a series of special events for its refugee students to embrace them into local life.

The new support programme focuses on helping student refugees overcome barriers they face when arriving and learning in a new culture and society. Its Project Coordinator Shivan Merza is a refugee from Kurdistan, and is working alongside two part-time ESOL student advisors, funded by the UK government’s Kickstart Scheme, to provide daily 1-2-1 support.

Refugee Week is a UK-wide festival celebrating the contributions, creativity and resilience of refugees and people seeking sanctuary.

Through a programme of arts, culture, sports and educational events, alongside media and creative campaigns, Refugee Week enables people from different backgrounds to connect beyond labels, as well as encouraging understanding of why people are displaced, and the challenges they face when seeking safety. 

The theme of Refugee Week 2022 is healing, and NCG has organised a series of events to bring its student refugee communities together to talk about their experiences, make friends, share and celebrate their home cultures. Events at one of its colleges, Newcastle College, include conversation groups, 5-a-side football, badminton and musical theatre activities.

Project Coordinator Shivan Merza, said:

“Healing takes many forms, but it starts with conversation and making friends. Our support programme facilitates this all year round for our refugee student community, but we are excited to see a jam-packed calendar for Refugee Week to bring our community together for some fun, conversation and mutual support.”

Since starting in December 2021, the Our Community is Your Community programme has worked directly with approximately 200 refugees, asylum seekers and other ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) students across Newcastle, Carlisle and Kidderminster colleges, and NCG plans to expand this support across all of its colleges.

Liz Bromley, Chief Executive Officer at NCG said:

“Shivan, our Project Coordinator, has been a real driving force behind the Our Community is Your Community programme to date, which is terrific. It is incredibly valuable to have someone who has experienced first-hand the challenges student refugees face.”

On the value of the Our Community is Your Community programme, Shivan said:

“I know the struggle these students face – I had to overcome a lot of challenges and received a lot of support to achieve the qualifications I have today. Whether it’s navigating the automated telephone systems of paying water or electricity bills, applying for UCAS, or filling in forms for childcare funding – the problem solving we do varies hugely, reflecting the many challenges someone faces when navigating a new culture and language.

“Many refugees already have valuable degrees – whether they’re accountants, doctors or teachers – but without support learning to speak English, refugees won’t be able to share these skills with society.”

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