AGM & Drop-In Birthday Party

In early autumn we had two big events; the 2nd* brithday party of our drop-in and the Annual General Meeting.

Drop-In 2nd Birthday Party, 16th September 2019


All our regular drop-in attendees – service users and volunteers – came together to produce a superb buffet. The hall was decorated, including with a chain of paper hand cut-outs that local children had decorated with messages of welome, children put on singing performances and we had a birthday cake. It was one of the singers’ birthdays too.

Mary Downy (below right) runs the drop-in and had organised the party beautifully. What a star!

Mary kids


* Correction from the newsletter that said it was the drop-in’s 3rd birthday.

Annual General Meeting, 8th October 2019

Our AGM went really well – the hall was packed with our supporters, service users, volunteers and those wanting to find out more about our work.

Tony Tonyton, Chair of Sanctuary in Chichester, got straight down to businesses with passing motions and appointing trustees. With the official bits out of the way, he moved on to a presentation in English and Arabic (thank you Waleed for interpreting) about our planned work and projects, and how they support our strategic aims – i.e. to support refugees and asylum seekers to build their new lives and fully integrate into their new communities.

Tony outlined ways that people can really make a difference and volunteer with us.

We also heard from Roger Pask, our previous Chair, about work in 2019 leading up to Tony’s appointment. He then presented Nations United football Team Captain Jelani with a book on football signed by several famous football figures who feature in the book. This was in recognition of all Jelani’s hard work and guidance on our flagship football project, which was his idea and which is enjoying huge success.

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Then it was time for tea and cakes – Tony’s wife Tracey had spent days baking piles of fabulous cupcakes, brownies, scones (with jam and clotted cream) and more, that were very much appreciated by everybody!

Thank you to those who participated and to those who signed up to volunteer.


Case Study – Asylum Seeking Families

We recently found that some asylum seeking families had arrived in the area in great need. We responded immediately and over the last three months have turned things around for the families.

When we first met the families, we found that they various serious needs, including urgent medical problems. The trauma and distress they expressed was shocking to witness. The families were also unable to navigate their new environment and local systems due to their lack of English. The Home Office provision was woefully inadequate, and these highly vulnerable people were struggling with every aspect of life.

In response to the families’ situations and in collaboration with West Sussex County Council, Chichester District Council, the Rural Refugee Network,  Little Bundles, local schools, the Rotary Clothes Bank and the Chichester Food Bank, we firstly:

  • Ensured all the families are registered with their GPs and had medical problems addressed.
  • Ensured the families have food and toiletries.
  • Got the families warm clothes, coats and shoes.
  • Got toys for the young children.
  • Supported individuals through times of deep distress.
  • Got the children into school, with school uniform, school shoes, PE kits and free school lunches.
  • Got bus travel – although the expensive 1 month tickets funded by the Rural Refugee Network and ourselves, and the vouchers generously donated by Stagecoach, are about to run out and we have no further resources for their vital transport to cheaper supermarkets in Chichester. Tickets from where they are living cost a huge proportion of their weekly allowance.
  • Taken individuals to hospital appointments.

Now that the most urgent needs are taken care of, we are:

  • Transporting the families to our drop-in for support and solidarity.
  • Just starting formal language lessons.
  • Arranging regular visits from our DBS-checked volunteers, and outings with them.
  • Trying to get dental treatment – some of the children’s and adults’ teeth are in an appalling state. This is proving to be very difficult due to the lack of availability of NHS dentists.
  • Giving general day-to-day support with reading letters, reporting accommodation problems, listening, collecting children from school trips, being the families’ point of contact for any issues.
  • Investigating possibilities for talking and trauma therapies with interpreters.
  • Advocating to the Home Office and housing provider improve their support for asylum seeking families. This has been successful and changes have already been made.

If we had not given this support to the families they would be in very serious situations and in deep distress, so we feel extremely lucky to have been able to help them. This is why Sanctuary in Chichester exists, and wow is it worthwhile when you see people’s lives and outlooks transform!

We have learned a lot over the last few months. We have had to recruit a lot of new volunteers to meet the needs of the asylum seeking families. Recruiting volunteers and all the support we have given the families has taken up a huge amount of our resources in terms of time and finances. This was not planned or fundraised for so our finances have taken an unexpected and significant hit, and we are having to urgently seek additional funding. We are also working on a strategy for making our organisation more resilient.

One very encouraging thing we’ve learned is how fantastically well local organisations can work together, and how responsive we all are. Thank you to West Sussex County Council, Chichester District Council, the Rural Refugee Network, Little Bundles, Stagecoach Buses, local schools, local GP surgeries, parish councils, social prescribers, the Rotary Clothes Bank, Chichester Food Bank and The Red Cross in Portsmouth for all the recent support and collaboration.

And a big thank you to all our donors, volunteers and supporters, without whom our work with these families would not have been possible. We think this story illustrates why your contributions are so important and valuable.


Fundraising Quiz Night & Fish ‘n Chips

What a brilliant evening! Thank you to our Chair Tony Toynton and his wife Tracey for putting on this superbly organised event, and to all those who came and bought lots of raffle tickets – we raised £469.48!

The winning team – Chichester City Riders – was awarded with chocoalte medals, the atmosphere was lively and an absolutely great time was had by all.

We had lots of messages the next day saying how much fun people had, and asking about the next event – planning has begun already! Many wondered how it had been possible to supply 85 portions of hot and crispy fish ‘n chips, all served at the same time. There were some fab prizes in the raffle, including Scotch, wine and chocolates.

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The triumphant winners, Chichester City Riders

Many thanks also to James Field, Headteacher of St Richard’s Catholic Primary School who provided the venue.

Christmas Tree Festival

20191206_165538Sanctuary in Chichester sponsored a tree at St Paul’s Church Christmas Tree Festival. Doves and snowmen made of white felt were decorated with paint and glitter by the children at our drop-ins during the lead up to the festival.

One volunteer created a fantastic felt ‘paper’ chain in Sanctuary colours, and a team of volunteers decorated the tree. Little knitted Christmas stockings were added, with messages of peace in Arabic and English for visitors to take, and some white twinkling lights. It looks beautiful!

The joy of this festival is in the huge number of 6ft Christmas trees lining the whole church, creating an amazing and festive atmosphere. The smell is incredible! And the sight is breathtaking.



The festival is only on until tomorrow, 7th December, so do try to pop in quickly if you have time.





Weald & Downland Museum Trip

A big crowd of Sanctuary members gathered at the Weald and Downland Museum one October morning…

It was a chilly day, but we had a wonderfully warm welcome from staff at The Weald and Downland Living Museum for our half-term visit on 29th October 2019. We all arrived by car with willing volunteers collecting and returning guests from various locations. The preparation and organisation proved well worthwhile.

We were a total of 33 guests, including children, and 12 volunteers. And we were pleased that Kate Moon, WSCC Family Support Worker, could also join us as it was great chance for us all to meet her.

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After our introductory chat about health, safely and hygiene, we set off in small parties to explore the fantastic variety on offer at the outdoor museum. It was great fun meeting up at different points to chat about where we had visited – the Victorian schoolhouse, the working water mill, the Tudor kitchen, craft activities, storytelling, ducks on the pond and horses and cows in the fields…. it was certainly a morning packed with interest, laughter, fresh air and lots of open space for children to play and run free.

As always, these outings are an invaluable way of making new and different connections for both guests and volunteers. And as the museum is home to historic buildings dating from 950AD to 19th Century, there were plenty of opportunities for gaining cultural and historical insights which triggered new vocabulary and questions. The theme of the half-term week at the museum was Halloween which raised lots more questions especially about pumpkins!

And on the subject of pumpkins…. we were treated to some deliciously sweet candied pumpkin slices made by one of our Syrian guests. Several volunteers took down the recipe to make the same evening. The sharing of picnic food is always an important part of our outings and the spread was particularly impressive, with flasks of tea and coffee to warm us too.

We are already looking forward to our next outing…. do you have any suggestions or ideas for local places for families to visit?

By Mary Atkinson, Volunteer

Nations United football – quotes and stories

As part of the recent grant application to Sussex Community Foundation, SiC volunteer Lucia Withers collected some interviews and case studies with those involved in our successful and flourishing football project. They provide some touching insight into the impacts of the project on individuals’ lives…

The project was initiated by a young refugee called Jelani – now Team Captain – with support from other future team members.

Here’s an extract from their proposal in 2017:

We are a group of young men from many countries who have had to flee our homes. We are very pleased to be here in England, and appreciate all the care and support we’ve been given. We are now very keen to form our own football team to help us settle into our new lives here, and would like your help to enable us to do that.

“We want to play football because we love football, and have asked Sanctuary in Chichester to help us do something that we love. We also want to have some fun, whilst we learn English better, and get to meet more people. We have come from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt, Iran, Syria, Somalia and Albania, but we are one as a group, doing our best to settle into our new home, and wanting to be proud to play in our united football team.

Two years later and Lucia asked Jelani how the football had developed:

He explained how important it has been for the boys, because many of them were quite isolated, staying in their homes and hostels and not getting out much or meeting people. Football has been a vehicle for getting them out and making friends.

It means I know a lot of people now. Everywhere I go I have friends.” This sense of integration took on a new dimension when Chichester University became involved in the project. According to Jelani, the involvement of the student coaches and the regular friendly games against university staff and students has enabled him to get to know a broader group of people – “we have become part of the university,” he explained.

Jelani has taken an active role in welcoming new players and supporting them to participate, including by acting as an interpreter during training sessions for those who don’t yet speak English. In acknowledgment of this role SiC pays Jelani a small weekly stipend. In turn, Jelani attributes this experience in helping him to get his first job in December 2018 as a Business Administration Apprentice for WSCC in which he acts as a liaison point for young refugee and asylum seekers, ensuring that they have access to information about the services to which they are entitled in a language they can understand and helping them to integrate into the community.

Jelani has been a central figure in NU since its inception and still manages to fit in the weekly training sessions and six-a-side match fixtures around his new job and his continuing studies in health and social care. He stressed his appreciation for the project and how hard Steve, Jon and other volunteers have worked for the team: “they always come, even when it’s raining they don’t complain. They have helped us make NU into a team.


Rory Gogarty, host family of Asmerom, a young asylum seeker:

Asmerom was a fearful young man who had experienced torture and had found his way to the UK […] in very dangerous circumstances. He was clearly traumatised and spoke very little English. Apart from providing food and accommodation, we wondered how we might best help him recover and integrate him back into a more normal life.

SiC advised us of the Nations United football club […] When we discussed this with Asmerom, he was very keen to play football and to meet other refugees and we took him along to a practice at the university. I remember it well even though it was a dark raining evening. Importantly, Asmerom was met by friendly faces. There were also other young refugees who spoke his language and I could immediately see Asmerom relax and start to have fun.

Asmerom was keen to continue with the football so we lent him a bicycle and since November last year he has cycled in to the NU training and match sessions just about every Wednesday and Thursday. He loves going. Not only is it the love of football but from my observing Asmerom it is all about the fun and joy he gets in connecting with other young refugees who all have similar stories and so help and encourage one another. […] The friendship and support that Asmerom receives at NU from players and coaches has without doubt helped him to become more relaxed and confident. It has improved his English, provides him with good exercise and has brought both him and us a new set of friends.

In my view Nations United is a gem of an organisation and punches way above its weight in terms of refugee support and social care. It is run in a very reliable and efficient manner, the feedback on matches and the involvement of the university students is brilliant as this helps the young refugees communicate in English with people their own age but from a different culture. We are big fans.

In Asmerom’s words:

When summing up what Nations United meant to him, Asmerom told SiC volunteer Lucia, “NU stands for Love, Help and Hope.” He went on to explain that for him NU is about love because it’s a place where he can meet people and where he and other young refugee/asylum seekers can have fun and make friends. “I am very lucky to play for Nations United. I‘ve made many many friends […] We are friends now and we go places together.

Asmerom said that when he joined the team his English was not very good and he didn’t always understand what the coaches were saying, but now he can and he also speaks English with the other players. He is also really proud of how much his football has improved. “I loved to play football but before I didn’t really know how to play. It’s very complicated – it’s like maths. I’ve learnt a lot from the coaches and my skills are better.  If you play good you feel happy.” He wants NU to get better and better and has high ambitions for the team. “I can see us getting to the top – I think we can be like Manchester United one day!”

In recognition of his skills, Asmerom was recently voted ‘man of the match’ by his teammates and received an award. “I was so excited by that,” he said. But for Asmerom, NU is much more. He told me about the warm welcome that he gets when arrives and the way in which the players support and help each other. He repeated again, “NU means love, NU means help, NU means hope.

Interview with James Harris, recent graduate from Chichester University’s Football Coaching and Performance Degree Course and one of five volunteer student coaches for Nations United.

How and why did you first become involved with Nations United?

“I was actually looking for practical coaching experience so I volunteered immediately when Danny [Senior Lecturer and Football Coaching and Performance Programme Lead] invited volunteers – I didn’t know anything about it and had no idea what to expect beyond the fact that it would be working with refugees.”

How has the project developed over the 11 months you have been involved?

“At the start it was quite chaotic; there was no real consistency in who turned up and most of those who did spoke only Arabic. They really didn’t know what to expect from us and we didn’t know what to expect from them. We had to be really reactive and in some ways go back to basics to find things that they could do and enjoy.”

“There’s much more consistency now – there is a core of players who come regularly and you can see that there are stronger connections between them. Now there is a solid base it is easier to incorporate new players when they turn up. Recently two younger lads who had been brought along by their carers turned up. They didn’t know anyone but I made a point of using their names so that that they felt part of it and other players heard and used their names too. It’s not always easy, not all of the players speak the same language so whereas the Eritreans and Sudanese find it easy to communicate with each other, some of the lads from other countries can find it more difficult. You can see that the lads living with British families or carers find it easier than those living in hostels – they are more confident.”

What have you learnt from the project?

“It’s certainly helped my coaching skills. I am much more organised and have really learnt to plan ahead and adapt my style of coaching to suit the players. As a student of coaching we use very technical language that the players don’t necessarily understand so we have adapted our language and made it simpler. […] I also think it is really important to be prepared and to show that we take the project seriously so that players feel that they are part of something. So for example, before a match I lay out all the kit so that they can arrive and get changed in the way a professional team would – it is really important to make them feel as if they are part of a real club.” 

Have you learnt more about the situation of refugees/asylum seekers in the UK?

“I had always been kind of sympathetic to the situation of refugees and I knew something about the wars and other reasons that people to become refugees, but I wasn’t someone who was particularly educated in the details. Since being involved in NU and through talking to Jon and Steve [previous volunteer co-leads for the project] I have learnt a lot more about the issue. In fact, NU was the case study for my dissertation so I did a lot of research into the situation in the countries of origin of NU members, the trauma that they have been through and the situation of refugees and asylum seekers in this country.”

What do you think members of Nations United get from their participation?

“The language of football is a shared thing – it is something that the players care about and even if they are not very confident they will talk about that. When they arrive for training we always say “Hi” and ask them how they are doing and what they have been up to and we talk about football – I can see players learning to express themselves. Recently a player approached me to confide some difficulties he was having – I think he felt safe and felt he could speak to me and I was then able to get advice from Steve and Jon on what to do.”

“It is also a lot about helping rebuild identities – having fun but also instilling a discipline that can help them with other parts of their lives. This has been quite challenging and we have not always been certain what to do, but we have found that being quite strict about arriving on time, turning up for training on Thursday if they want to be in a team for the Wednesday league matches, listening when we are telling them something has made a difference. It was difficult for some of them in the beginning but they have reacted positively.”

“The Wednesday matches are also really important for them. To be honest I was a bit worried at the beginning because they are playing teams whose members are often quite a bit older and more experienced than them. But really good things have come out of it – not just when they win matches, but how they get over it when they lose and how they are relating to the other teams. We prep the teams in advance so they know who they are playing and we have encouraged our lads to introduce themselves at the start. We don’t want them to be thought of just as ‘the refugee team’ – we want their opponents to understand who they are – some of the teams are really lovely with them.”

Interview with Danny Potter, Senior Lecturer and Football Coaching and Performance Programme Lead, Institute of Sport, Chichester University

How and why did you first become involved with Nations United?

“I first heard about SiC when an e-mail landed in my in-box in early 2018 asking if the University would be interested in providing facilities for a SiC-supported football project with young refugees. I was immediately interested so I met with Jon Bowra and Steve Gough the two co-organisers of the project and was really inspired by what they were trying to do.  We just clicked – we had the same vision and shared the same ideas about how football can help people who have been through difficult experiences.

I firmly believe in equality and providing everyone with the opportunity and freedom to participate – participation is as important as success. I also believe in the importance of community and of community engagement in supporting the most vulnerable. Football is a universal language – on one level it is easy and on another it is highly complex – everyone can take part. This project was a way of putting into practice my beliefs and applying my expertise and experience as the lead for Chichester University on football coaching and delivery.”

Have you ever been involved in anything similar?

“Previously I ran a big project to support participation in football of homeless people and people in care so I was already familiar with working with vulnerable people. In many ways though, the members of Nations United are the most vulnerable people that I have worked with – they have faced incredible difficulties in their lives and even now their situations are very complex. This creates particular challenges that we have to be really alert to.”

How are you and Chichester University supporting Nations United?

“After an initial conversation with Steve and Jon we just hit the ground running. We have been able to offer a safe space for the members of Nations United to come together to train and play football – that includes access to the university’s AstroTurf and indoor facilities when it’s raining, but also a classroom where they can meet before the training and where we take registers, check they’re okay and the student coaches talk to them about what they are going to learn that day. It’s important to be able to offer this safe, non-threatening space for them.”

“But discussions quickly moved on from support with facilities to a whole range of other things. Right from the start we were able to offer expertise on delivering football. We also have a student body which is really interested and involved. This includes the student coaches who are all undergraduates studying to be professional football coaches and who have volunteered to deliver once-a-week training sessions as well as to support NU’s participation in competitive football matches. But the student involvement is much broader than that. So for example, we have had the involvement of students who are studying sports media and running sporting events. There’s a lot of interest on the research side too including in developing a better understanding of the benefits of this type of project – learnings that we can build on in the future and hopefully share with others. And of course NU is playing in the university’s six-aside league which takes place every Wednesday evening during term time and means they are meeting with and playing staff and students. It’s really snowballed – the more the students get involved the more others get interested and want to be involved too.”

“Absolute key to this is the support I have had from the University’s leadership. This is all extra-curricular work, but the Vice Chancellor has been behind it from start – this sort of engagement fits perfectly with how the University sees itself in the community and its core values.”

What has it meant to you personally to be involved in this project?

“It’s meant a lot to be involved. I feel really fortunate and have learnt an incredible amount about the lives of these young people and the issues that they are dealing with. It is great to be able to use my expertise to help. The only issue is for me is not having the time – I would like to do even more with them. I am trying to get round that by supporting our students to get involved so that they develop an understanding of the positive role that football can play in society.”

What do you think it means to the members of Nations United?

“It has been amazing watching the young people over the last year – they have really grown and there is more of a buzz. I think they feel that they are part of club and I can see that friendships have been built between them – they often used to come individually and not communicate with each other so much, but now they arrive in groups and chat and laugh. It is also great that we have players that have been here from the start who help welcome and support new members.”

“But it’s more than just the relationships between the players. At the start the coaches were very hesitant and not sure what was expected of them, but I’ve seen them becoming more empathetic and adapt their style of coaching so that it works for these players. They have really grown and it is good to see how the players relate to them and vice versa.  The players have also become part of our community of staff and students on the campus – you can see the mutual respect. Their integration into the life of the university has been a real high point for me – it is one of the reasons the project is so important.”

How do you see the project developing over the next year and what are the main challenges?

“The numbers of players who turn up to training and who want to play matches is growing steadily and we want to be able to support that growth. We want to strengthen the sense of being part of a club including through giving the young players more opportunities to play in competitive matches including local leagues. This is complicated both because of safeguarding but also there are particular legal issues for refugees, but we are talking to the FA about how to resolve this. We are also having discussions with SiC about how we can deliver sport for women and girls – not necessarily football but something that gives them the same opportunities.”

“Sustainability is probably our biggest challenge. SiC relies on volunteers and, as I said, my involvement is also over and above my professional role in the university. It is important for us to put in place structures to ensure that we can keep the project going in the long-run.”

Testimonial from Jon Bowra, Co-founder and previous member of Nations United’s co-ordinating group

It is a few days after Christmas 2017, and I check my emails. A friend has forwarded a message from a voluntary group [Sanctuary in Chichester] that supports refugees and asylum-seekers. They have recently had a number of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children come to their drop-in sessions expressing an interest in football and were inviting anybody interested to engage with and support this group, possibly to accompany them to a match. I am a retired Social Worker, new to the area, a Chelsea supporter of over 50 years standing, and a regular non-league football watcher due to my three sons’ involvement. It appears that I am the only person to respond to this email!

A few days later I am at the drop-in session getting to know some of the young people who had expressed an interest. I also meet the vice-chair of the organisation [Steve Gough], and between us we decide there and then to do something. Steve and I write a project outline immediately, and so starts the journey.

It was January 2018 that myself and Steve found ourselves standing on a very windy and cold astro pitch hired from Chichester College, wondering who might turn up. As it happened, we were amazed at the turnout, and our limited coaching skills and arthritic knees were put to the test! Sanctuary were able to provide some financial input, which was soon stretched as increasing numbers of people turned up wanting to play, but did not possess astro boots. We went on crowded shopping trips to the local sports shop, and bought astros for over 30 players.

After lengthy discussions with the players we agreed upon the team name Nations United, and so we had an identity. We were soon featured in the local press, and amazingly a local county league team then came forward and offered us their kit from the previous season. So we had a name, some kit, players, and then we had a friendly against a local team of adults. Our team of fifteen to eighteen year olds won the game 7-2. Nations United was born!

Our costs soon started to increase alarmingly. Myself and Steve met with Danny Potter, Senior Lecturer in sport at the university’s Institute of Sport, and he fully bought into our initiative, and subsequently took a key active role in terms of engaging with Nations United’s planning, and the ongoing development of good practice, and visions for the future. As a result, a level of partnership was formed that enabled the project to have regular free access to a 3G pitch, consistent empowering and supportive input from student coaches completing their coaching degrees, as well as ongoing input of expertise from a range of university staff.

Additionally, because of this partnership, Nations United has been able to participate in six-a-side leagues run by the university on their campus, host their own tournaments, and create a sense of safety and continuity for the players coming to training sessions. The regularity of training and matches enables a sense of stability and trust to build up, whilst the skilled input of the student coaches in terms of support, guidance, and accompaniment, creates a beneficial environment that assists participants to recover from their traumas of travelling to, and settling in, the UK, and begin to start establishing their lives here.

We view the players not just as vulnerable victims, but as human beings with considerable capacity, varied talents, and potential. We are also mindful of the value of creating a welcoming non-judgemental, non-hierarchical, and non-comparative environment in terms of football ability. To this end we are particularly keen to promote their voice in all that the project does, and truly embody a sense of collaboration and partnership that recognises and respects their identity and abilities. This is not always a straightforward ambition, often because the players are not necessarily used to their views being valued and listened to, and also because of language difficulties. We have a range of languages spoken by players from over 14 different countries, and sometimes struggle to access appropriate translation resources.

Over the last year we have developed partnerships nationally with the F.A., and are members of their diversity and inclusion network, and with Amnesty International, being keen supporters of their Football Welcomes initiative, as well as looking at developmental possibilities with them. Locally we are fortunate to have established good links with the Sussex F.A., and are co-ordinating with them a refugee forum, and have also established links with the University of Brighton, Portsmouth F.C. , and the Russell Martin Foundation.

All this has been primarily achieved by unpaid volunteers. However we recognise that just because we are volunteers, we cannot be any less professional in our approach than our partner organisations, and have striven to develop good practice around our planning meetings, decision-making, record keeping, budgeting, and the development of an achievable set of strategies for future development. From the basis of this approach we were delighted that we have been able to establish a Memorandum of Understanding with the University of Chichester, which clarifies the focus of our partnership work, and recognises the credibility and value of the work that Nations United does.

One area that we want to do better in is promoting the involvement of women and girls from a refugee and asylum-seeking background in playing football. We are working closely with the University and Amnesty International to see how this can be facilitated. We are also actively exploring how to encourage and support female student coaches from the university to have input into the current Nations United team.


It has been widely recognised in many academic studies that involvement in football can be fundamentally a force for good in enhancing the wellbeing of both men and women, and boys and girls, from a refugee and asylum-seeking background. It is also recognised that football can contain less favourable elements, which Nations United is keen to not expose our players to. However when considering the potential positive impact of football involvement, it would appear to be a particularly relevant time in the midst of the current political and social climate of uncertainty, and indeed significant levels of harassment and hostility, to promote an initiative like Nations United, where a place for the presence of dignity, compassion and integrity, can be a consistent empowering baseline from which to build a healthy and happy life.

As facilitators of this project we would want to acknowledge that we have drawn much satisfaction from seeing the enabling effects of playing football releasing Nations United players into being able to express a sense of fun and enjoyment, build friendships, and have that brief moment of letting go of some of the challenges that they continually face. There is however much more work to be done, and many more issues to understand and engage with, in the hope that Nations United can continue to build on its empowering and facilitating role.

Nations United provides opportunities for refugees to play regular football and to become part of a community

Thank you to Jelani, Rory, A, James, Danny and Jon for these valuable contributions, and to Lucia for recording them.

If you’d like to get involved in the football project or developing activities for girls, please email Gemma Driver at

Welcome to our new Chair, Tony Toynton

Tony Toynton, Chair of Sanctuary in Chichester

Tony Toynton, Chair of Sanctuary in Chichester

A warm welcome to our brilliant new Chairperson, Tony Toynton! He has brought with him a wealth of knowledge and experience, and is dedicated to supporting refugees and asylum seekers to thrive in in their new lives in West Sussex.

I am honoured and delighted that the Board of Trustees have elected me as their new Chairman. Roger Pask will be a hard act to follow as he did such a fantastic job setting up Sanctuary in Chichester and all that it has done so far. Now that Sanctuary in Chichester is fully established as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation I see my role as making sure it is properly governed and financially secure for the future. I have been hugely impressed with the work so far, I have some new ideas that I hope to share at the upcoming AGM and I commit to doing all I can to ensure that all of our refugees and asylum seekers are given the best opportunities to become fully integrated into their new adopted communities in and around Chichester.”  – Tony Toynton, August 2019.

We’ve had a few other changes in SiC’s team recently – Read more…

SiC team news

You may know that we have a fantastic new Chairperson, Tony Toynton, but there are a few other changes around Santuary Towers (an entirely virtual venue for now)…

You’ll no doubt be pleased to know that Roger Pask, the well-loved outgoing Chair and SiC founder, is still a Trustee. He continues to be active in the organisation, and now focuses on accommodation and supporting Appeal Rights Exhausted asylum seekers.

Gemma Driver replaced the much-missed Tazmin Mirza, as Development & Communications Coordinator, and is available Monday – Thursday every week;

Rebecca Zeman is stepping down from her role as Trustee and Fundraising Committee (FRC) Chair. Having given her all on SiC’s fundraising since the organisation was founded, she felt it was time to hand over to someone new. Rebecca was an outstanding FRC lead and oversaw considerable successes within a short space of time, including SiC recieving charitable status and a number of grants. Thank you Rebecca, you will be sorely missed! Looking ahead, the FRC has a bright future, with Tony Toynton taking up the reins as lead.

Duncan Barratt is in the process of becoming our Trustee leading the Nations United football project. Thank you to Steve Gough and Jon Bowra, who both left recently having worked so hard and given so much to setting up and running the initiative. Duncan will work with Danny Potter, the football lead at the University of Chichester, who manages the student coaches training the players. We’ve just had news of a 3-year grant for the football project, from the Sussex Community Foundation, which will allow us to develop it and related activities. Read more about the funding and the impact of the project on young refugees and asylum seekers…

Finally, here’s an ‘organogram’ of SiC, so you can see who does what in the organisation. This diagram is live and constantly evolving.

Refugee talks & activities in schools

As part of Refugee Week 2019, three refugees in our network kindly gave talks at local schools about their experiences. Children heard about why the refugees had to leave their homes, how they got here and their experiences of living as refugees in the UK.

The children then enthusiastically embraced an art activity, in which they created cut-outs of their hands decorated with messages of welcome and support to be passed on to all the refugees and asylum seekers in our network.

Helen Floyd, our schools volunteer, then read out some of the clearly heartfelt messages at one of our drop-ins. It was really touching and pretty emotional to hear the children’s kind and caring sentiments.


Helen felt the school visits went really well; “The students responded well, asking good questions and showing a respectful interest in wider issues concerning refugees. […] The children were extremely responsive and enthusiastic and there was a very positive atmosphere.  I think the whole session proved to be very affirming for the guests and gave many beneficial learning opportunities for the class.

Anya Walters from WSCC attended too, and she also reported that, “The questions the children asked were respectful, thoughtful, and showed they cared and empathised with refugee experiences. Clearly they had some grounding knowledge, which was great to build on, surprising them with just how many people are refugees seeking safety across the world, and how there are and have been talented refugees for thousands of years!

With so many of the boys fist-bumping Jelani at the end, I think he’s a local famous football player who happens to also be a refugee, what a great way for them to see how we are all the same, with talents and hopes.

Thank you to those who gave the talks – it isn’t easy to speak publicly about painful experiences – and thank you to Helen for organising these valuable events, and to the schools for hosting them.