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  • Writer's pictureUmerah Riyasat

From different roads, we journey as one!

Updated: May 12, 2022

RAPAR (Refugee and Asylum Participatory Action Research) is a human rights organisation based in Manchester, UK, focusing on displaced people and issues relating to displaced people. Founded in Salford in 2001, its founding members were academics and researchers, migrants, displaced people and refugees, and other practitioners in community development and similar services. As a registered charity, RAPAR advocates for the rights of displaced people and functions as an enabler, an integrator and community builder providing holistic support for its beneficiaries.

Recently, Football for Humanity and RAPAR among other partnered organisations have banded together to reinforce and fulfil RAPAR's commitment to providing holistic support for its beneficiaries.

Football for Humanity and RAPAR with its partners at the University of Manchester, the Manchester FA and No Borders forged an inclusive football-focused programme that aims to create "safe spaces" that double as community hubs where people can interact, make friends and tackle issues such as human right violations, sustainable housing, homelessness, mental health and racism.

No Borders founder Toby Nicholas explains the original inspiration for the collaboration:

“We wanted displaced people to feel less isolated, and have the ability to expand their community. Through this programme, people can have really easy access to the positive health benefits of exercise but also the social benefits of team building, forming bonds of solidarity with other participants and gaining access to wider services that RAPAR and No Borders MCR can offer. By introducing extra points of entry for these services, displaced people coming to Manchester can way more readily establish networks of legal and social support that are so needed to navigate the hostile, bureaucratic environment successfully.”

The use of sport as a psychosocial intervention is very appropriate and fully supported by the game plan of Manchester FA, as led by Football Development Officer and UEFA licensed coach, Alex West.

“In Manchester FA, we say “Football is For All”, and we are here to grow, develop and help you get into football, regardless of your ability, race, faith, ethnicity, sexual orientation, economic status or gender. This collaboration’s choice of football is amazing because sport is a brilliant approach, and very much suited to the beneficiaries. First and foremost, the increase in physical activity and reduction of social isolation in displaced communities is going to help people massively, not to mention the possibility of football education available to committed participants to increase their skill set outside of a formal environment,” West informs.

This is likewise in line with the government's national sporting strategy, which promotes sport and an active lifestyle as pathways to social and community development, and the physical and mental well-being of its citizens.

Alimamy is one of many refugees who organised the RAPAR Football Project. He envisioned it as an opportunity for refugees to enjoy a game of football and freely express themselves, as well as be connected to a network of fellow refugees, locals, and service providers. The programme also introduces refugees to many other programmes that develop skills and talents so that these refugees are fast-tracked into the British mainstream. Proof of this system is Alimamy himself, who worked for his qualification and is now certified by the Manchester FA as a "playmaker", making him a community leader and champion.

This particular afternoon, we had the pleasure of speaking to Alimamy as he rushed into the office, anxious about his forthcoming football match at the University of Manchester. He has been in the UK since 2018, and he talks confidently and profoundly about the journey he has been through, from his native country to his new land. Alimamy is a staunch advocate for people with disabilities and the LGBT community in Sierra Leone, championing communities for inclusivity, equity and equality for all.

Alimamy said, 'In my native country, I would not be allowed to play. They would classify me as unfit to participate in any capacity because I have a disability. But I'm here in the UK now, and I have the freedom to pursue what I want to be. So today, I will play with my RAPAR brothers and sisters, and we are going to win!'

Dr Rhetta Moran, the founder of RAPAR, added,

"Being able to enjoy the freedom to breathe deeply, to run, to play with others, to be outside in a safe space, to know people are going to meet together, train together, play together, every week in the same place; the stability and reassurance and the semblance of being together in a community that all members have decided will never be torn apart and will always welcome new people: it's priceless."

“In RAPAR, there is no racism. We are a family. We don't just talk about inclusion, we practice it. And that is the core of our friendship. It's what motivates and strengthens us. It's what gives us hope," Alimamy declares, as he talked about the future with a determined look on his face, his eyes lighting up on the prospect of a happy tomorrow that will dissipate whatever was sad or unfortunate in his past. "I am a new person on the pitch. I forget my fears, and even as I get tired, I gain new strength. I am so thankful for this programme that we have created together."

Football for Humanity is a firm believer in collaboration, especially the “multi-agency task force” strategy, which brings together the best minds and infinite creativity to tackle an issue or a problem. Our credo is “bringing nations together”, which speaks of inclusion, cooperation, and love for humanity. We strive for a borderless world, which is why this Refugee-led multi-agency football programme fits so precisely within our foundation’s objectives. With the current situation in Afghanistan, it is now more important than ever to mobilize support for refugees fleeing into the UK for safety. This action cannot be left to the UK Government or charities alone–we need the support of everyone to ensure that refugee children, women and men will eventually enjoy the same opportunities as everyone else in the UK.

Overall, RAPAR plays a pivotal part in social cohesion as it seeks to lift and improve lives and together, weave a dynamic fabric that becomes British society. Intensifying support for these projects is a must so we can implement more projects faster and deliver its promise to enable people without their status to reach their fullest potential. You can help bolster this advocacy and the displaced people who aim to call the UK their home.

Want to play or learn more about this programme? Check out this poster!

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