Our “Meet and Greet” family support sessions happen every Tuesday lunch time at a Youth and Community Centre based in central Birmingham. In 2017 an average of 25 individual children and 20 adults attended each session.
Children housed in initial accommodation are not attending school so our Meet and Greet offers some respite to families living in cramped hostel accommodation.
During the sessions we organise a programme of play, sports and arts activities for children. We have a pool of around twenty volunteers supervising activities. Alongside the BIRCH Volunteer Co-ordinator a staff member from the Children’s Society has organised arts activities. As from late September 2017 the Children’s Society have added two more staff members to help us with signing visitors in and out casework and general supervision. We have a small team of volunteer cooks, kitchen helpers and individuals helping to distribute donated clothes, toys, books and toiletries and other essential items.
This year, thanks to dedicated volunteers we organised knitting and crochet which has proved very popular with our visitors. A volunteer also came in and taught conversational English for a few months.
Every four weeks we hold bread making workshops organised by Bread2share CIC. The Meet and Greet in 2017 received support from Birmingham MIND staff who held counselling surgeries and art activities. We have had the occasional visit from a qualified cricket coach and a qualified masseuse. In December we had a session organised by Birmingham Community Art Therapy. Eastside Projects (local arts organization) have also supported us by organizing a badge making activity.
We receive donations from a number of sources including local schools, a local Muslim charity many kind hearted individuals. At Christmas a local Secondary school organised donations of Christmas shoe boxes of gifts for the adults and children who attend our session.
In September we held two volunteer training sessions for our volunteers. One of the sessions was dedicated to Child Protection and Safeguarding. In 2017 we held 46 weekly sessions with 1138 individual visits from children and 730 adults.
During 2017 we conducted a survey of our visitors to find out if they enjoyed our food and asked our visitors about the activities we have on offer. In response to this survey we have tried to widen the menu (which is mainly vegetarian) and improve the way we deliver activities to adults and children at a time that is full of anxiety and extremely stressful.
Many thanks to everyone who was part of the Meet and Greet in 2017!
David Hirst – Refugee and Migrant Practitioner.