Following the conclusion of World Refugee Week, we are taking the chance to look back on the events and initiatives that the Yorkshire Cricket Foundation (YCF) – the official community arm of The Yorkshire County Cricket Club – has run over the past two years to support refugees.
People seeking asylum and refugees are some of the most vulnerable people in society.
At Yorkshire Cricket we are proud to work alongside several organisations including the Refugee Council, the Yorkshire Cricket Board, World Cup Legacy, Our Lady of Kirstall Friends of Migrants group, Horsforth Town of Sanctuary and local councils and support hundreds of refugees.
The latest support provided by the Club’s award-winning charity was a special refugee family fun day hosted at Garforth Parish Church Cricket Club.
Highlights from the event at the end of May, included cricket sessions and activities and food provided by the charity.
Sohail Raz, the Diverse Communities Manager for YCF, said: “Here at the Foundation, we are committed to making a difference and do our bit in helping support those seeking asylum and refugees.
“Outlets like cricket sessions are vital because they allow people to take a break from the challenges they are facing so they can do something fun and enjoyable.”
The event is part of continued support being offered by YCF, alongside local organisations in the region, to support those seeking asylum by providing opportunity to play cricket, while helping them integrate into society and socialise.
Previously the Foundation supported 15 people seeking asylum, from countries including Afghanistan, Cameroon, Chad, Iran, Kurdistan and Sudan, who were staying at a hotel in Leeds, take part in a special event at Headingley Stadium at the end of last year.
The special day included a tour of Headingley Stadium, led by YCF tour guide Mel Reuben, cricket activities at the East Stand, at Headingley Cricket Ground and food provided.
Denis, a professional weightlifter from Cameroon, who is currently seeking asylum, and took part in the day, commented: “It’s wonderful to be able to come out of the hotel – it helps me with my mental health and helps to be able to forget some things that I find difficult.
“Coming here has been a real help.”
Denis said being able to take part in the YCF support day offered “relief” from what currently is a very “difficult period” in his life.
“I really enjoyed having the chance to try a new sport because I have never seen cricket or experienced cricket before. I’m a weightlifter, he said. “The real problem for me at the moment is isolation – even though we are with a group of people at the hotel.”
Thierry, from Cameroon, who is also seeking asylum, added: “It’s the first time I have ever played cricket and I have really enjoyed it.
“The stadium was very nice and all the staff. I think if there was the opportunity to join a team in the future I would be interested.”
The support day at Headingley for people seeking asylum was in partnership with Our Lady of Kirkstall Friends of Migrants group, and Horsforth Town of Sanctuary, who are providing help and aid to refugees in Leeds through measures including food and clothes donations and education support.
Rose McCarthy, a refugee support worker for Horsforth Chaplaincy project and Chair of Our Lady of Kirkstall Friends of Migrants group, said: “I believe that all lives are enriched if we get to know people who are seeking sanctuary – they have lots of talents and skills to share with us and if we enable them to use those then we all benefit.
“Many of the young men have never played cricket before and initially there were a number of barriers to overcome but when they started playing they soon worked out what they had to do and seeing the smiles on all their faces all day at Headingley has been magical.”
Since 2021 the Foundation has also hosted a number of cricket sessions, welcome events, support days and Pop-Up Beach activities across Yorkshire for people that have had to leave their county, including in Scarborough and Leeds.
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