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The North West Regional Gathering was generously hosted this year by Lancashire Football Association at their County Ground & Sports Complex in Leyland, near Preston.

Representatives were invited from our 12 local CoS groups to come together with partner organisations & sanctuary awardees from across the region to share best practice, common challenges & their plans for the coming year.

Because of the venue, the chosen theme for the day was “Sanctuary in Sport”. Guest speakers first outlined the enthusiasm for engaging those seeking sanctuary in training for, playing in, coaching and refereeing football, both through the efforts of the National Football Association as well as of those involved in the amateur game.

Jeff Morgan offered his thoughts on caring for the mental health of participants in sport who had suffered significant trauma in their homelands, during flight and then within the UK’s asylum system. He emphasised the need for volunteers & coaches alike to be aware of how to avoid re-traumatisation & how to prepare to handle unpredictable reactions & behaviours.

In the afternoon session, short presentations were made by folk from local groups on a range of innovative sporting & outdoor projects which were already raising self esteem, giving purpose & changing the lives of sanctuary seekers throughout the North West.

Capoeira performance

Everyone enjoyed the lively “interactive demonstration” of the Brazilian martial art form, Capoeira. A heartwarming video showed how this sport had greatly benefitted young refugees held indefinitely in a Middle Eastern camp. “Capoeira for All”, the team who spoke & performed for us so effectively, expressed keenness to link up with CoS groups in the North West and, possibly, beyond.

Julia Savage updated us on the latest campaigns of Asylum Matters, both nationally & regionally, and Paul Salveson outlined his push for “Stations of Sanctuary” and told of the interest he has already generated in this initiative in consultation with national providers & controllers of rail transport.

Proceedings closed with the showing of a very moving video produced by Chester’s Theatre in the Quarter in association with CoS. “Walk my Journey”, which tells the stories of 3 individuals who fled persecution in their own countries but were finally welcomed by hundreds of British schoolchildren, moistened many an eye before we all parted and made our own journeys homewards.”

Jeff Morgan

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