Tag Archives: community

Sheffield Loves Lemlem

20 Jun


Lemlem is 62 years old and was born in Eritrea.  The village she comes from was a known support base for the Eritrean Liberation Front and consequently in 1978 her village was attacked by Ethiopian forces and burnt to the ground, leaving Lemlem with no surviving relatives.

Lemlem fled to Sudan and lived in a refugee camp, eventually achieving refugee status.  Finding herself with few opportunities as a refugee in Sudan, she applied for work as a domestic servant in Saudi Arabia and got herself a job with a family.  The family regularly visited the UK, and wanted to take Lemlem with them to care for their children, so they obtained an Ethiopian passport for her;

Lemlem is illiterate in both Tigrinya (native tongue) and Arabic (2nd lang), so never applied for, read or even held her own passport.  As Eritrea had gained Independence from Ethiopia in 1993 the passport was fraudulent in relation to her nationality at the very least.

In 2000, Lemlem’s employers visited the UK and took her with them. She had a fall and suffered a broken leg while looking after the family’s children:  She has never fully recovered. Her employers stopped paying her wages as she could no longer carry out some heavy physical tasks.  On a subsequent visit to the UK in 2007 the family abandoned her in a shopping centre with no money and no identification. She has sight and mobility problems.

Lemlem had no prior knowledge of the asylum system in the UK, but came to understand that she would need to register herself and file a claim for “asylum”, which she did.  She was refused.  Lemlem was sent to live in Sheffield, and despite her traumatic history and tragic absence of any living relative or friend, Lemlem threw herself into the Sheffield community, attending ESOL classes, conversation clubs and community groups with an optimism and generosity of spirit that amazed anyone that knew even the remotest detail of her past or current situation.

After her appeals against her refusal for asylum were turned down, Lemlem became destitute.  She became ineligible for any form of public housing or support; having nowhere else in the world to go, she became dependent on charities (notably ASSIST) and the goodwill and generosity of Sheffield people.

In July 2010 and again in October 2010 Lemlem was detained by the UK Border Agency, sent to a detention centre and flights were booked to deport her to Ethiopia, a place where she knows no one, does not speak the language and would receive no form of support.  She could not have survived there.  Thankfully on both occasions injunctions halted the removal orders and spared Lemlem at the very last minute.  No-one who knew Lemlem could bear the thought of her being detained again, never mind deported, so she did not return to the address from which she had been forcibly removed and did not report to sign at the UK Border Agency, the other location from which she had been forced into detention.

A fresh claim for asylum has been prepared for Lemlem by a devoted voluntary legal team.  Friends of Lemlem and those involved in previous campaigns were on standby for Tuesday 19th June 2012 when Lemlem would report to the UK Border Agency and re-register herself.

Lemlem spoke to Ian Nesbit at RASAG IT Club on Monday;



On Tuesday 19th June 2012 Lemlem Hussein Abdu, 62, Eritrean was detained by the UK Border Agency and sent to a detention centre.  She will be deported to Ethiopia on Sunday 24th June 2012, 9pm.

A protest will take place outside Sheffield Town Hall , Thursday 21/06/12, 1pm.  We will march to Vulcan House to protest outside the UK Border Agency offices.  They know we are coming and will be expecting a reasonable crowed and a bit of noise disturbance (they shut the curtains on previous occasions).  It is essential that this demonstration gets as many people as possible.

Lots of people will be busy at work and not around town, but if everyone could convince SOMEONE to go, it could make the difference.

Someone sharing the e-petition on facebook today wrote “AMIGOS,POR FAVOR: tirem um minuto para assinar esta peticao. E una historia distante para muitos de nos mas sera una assinatura que pode evitar uma sentenca de morte. Estejam onde estiverem, e isso que ira pesar. Va la, uma pequena contribuicao, um pequeno gesto mas una vida que se salva!!!”  – I wasn’t sure what it meant but Bing informed me that the last part means,” spare a moment to save a life.”

It really is that important.

Facebook; https://www.facebook.com/groups/102878976433976/

Sustaining IT…

8 Feb

RASAG’s love of IT Club is growing by the day – what could be better than 4 hours of high speed internet access, hot food and drinks and as much support as you could wish for?  Er, 10 times as much!  That’s right, RASAG is aiming to change it’s relationship status with IT from “complicated” to “married, full time, 9-5, forever”!  There are many reasons for this emergent longing for commitment, the main one being the cornerstone of many a successful partnership : NEED.  Every funder worth their salt, from city councils, to foundations to Joe Bloggs at the charity bingo wants to know one thing; why do you  NEED to do this activity,or rather, how have you established the NEED for the work?  Well the RASAG group established a gap in provision as detailed in previous posts,and having secured a small amount of funding, trialled the activity…  30 + participants, 6 regular volunteers and countless expressions of interest later, suffice it to say that IT Club feels needed, wanted, loved even!  However, just as our regulars are bound to discover that “DatingHotGirlsOnline” comes at a price, so the naysayers would have us believe that free internet access and printing with a beneficiary expenses budget for the most deprived and digitally excluded people in our communities is not a sustainable option – it will never catch on, say they… 

Luckily, RASAG HQ has other ideas…  Thanks to a fortuitous meeting of minds with the marvellous ACCESS Space http://access-space.org/doku.php?id=about:ethos RASAG has seen a whole new world of possibilities re. IT, sustainability and real world skills for our membership.  To cement this partnership we are embarking on a flagship project, bringing 21st century skills to those furthest from the job market (funder’s gotta love that,  right?), hopefully  with the generous provision of Humber Learning Consortium’s Community Grants scheme (European Social Fund and Skills Council funded).  With this, or A N other grant, we will enable 10 “hard to reach” learners to dismantle a broken pc, diagnose what is wrong with it, source the parts needed and fix the machine.  With their now fixed machine, they will be guided though installing open source software, which is free, and using the programmes and search features on the operating system.  With their new found knowledge of hardware and software, learners will be introduced to the wealth of online opportunities, including buying and selling, getting hold of free stuff and promoting services online, all for free – what could possibly be more sustainable than that?  Oh yes, one more thing, those who complete the course will get to take their pc away with them and do with it what they will – wow – that’s a giant leap towards the job market for those that finish!

Finally, RASAG has one beedy eye on the emerging Sheffield Community Network http://sheffieldcommunity.net/about/, an initiative that hope to help “deprived communities and disadvantaged social & economic groups in Sheffield to access and use ICT.”  Sounds like a good idea huh?  Do you think they want any help with that?  Sure they do, and here at RASAG we know that the ONLY way to promote digital inclusion and turn that towards economic equality, is to build a model that actively nurtures those who are EXCLUDED from the economy; asylum seekers, destitutes and members of host and settled communities who find themselves marginalised from society – if you can build a service that works for ALL, you WILL create growth, you WILL create opportunities, you WILL create jobs (+ hit those all important targets)…  That’s the RASAG 1 for ALL, bottom-up model, and that’s why we Love IT x

Doing IT?

29 Nov

IT Club has enjoyed it’s 5th successful session, with numbers steadily rising from 8 attendees at the first session to 17 at yesterday’s…  Volunteers are growing week by week as well, with three people now committing to attend regularly to assist members  with skills using email, web based publishing sites and reading.  As the activity develops the evidence of the need for  it is mounting up -so it seems like a good time to answer the question – IT Club –  why do it..?

On 11th September 2011 RASAG held it’s second “Happy Eid For Everyone” party, pictured above.   The majority of the budget was used on food making sure that there was a wide selection of dishes from around the world, freshly cooked with “whole food” ingredients, all suitable for our majority Muslim membership…  The party was open for everyone in the community and we aimed to cater for the enjoyment of a born and bred white Sheffielder, just as much as for a person or family from a different culture.

Our main intention in organising an event as a refugee/asylum seeker group, is to ensure that it is accessible to the hardest to reach people, including those who through the workings of the UK asylum system have been made destitute with no legal status to allow them to work and no recourse to public funds.  Good food, good music and the certainty of a friendly welcome all ensure that our parties are accommodating to someone living in enforced destitution.  Thanks to RASAG teaming up with the welcoming organisation Sheffield City of Sanctuary, “Happy Eid…” enjoyed a fabulous turnout of almost 200 people – African Arabic , Asian and Persian dishes were enjoyed alongside the sounds of DJ Ebo, and Shangra band Yakam Jar Bu – people danced, and laughed and were merry – even the tinned fruit and ice cream dessert was received with rapturous enthusiasm!  To the untrained eye the old school hall was the picture of affable comradery, but from RASAG’s p.o.v, the people who couldn’t raise a single smile, who’s foot never tapped to the beat and who didn’t exchange a word in sociablity were the only ones who mattered and they were dotted throughout the room like shadows in every corner.  Which raised the question – as a group, is it enough to simply afford a welcome to those most in need at occasional gatherings?  If the best we can do as a community group is provide a jolly a few times a year, are we really doing anything at all?  So IT Club was born.

The idea is very simple – four hours of high speed internet access on 11 PC’s, a box of additional resources including Flip cameras, ESL textbooks, dictionaries etc, a shared hot lunch and a small amount of petty cash to reimburse travel expenses for unwaged participants and volunteers – oh and printing is free with the room by default, although the line did have to be drawn when someone wanted to print a whole book!  There is no pressure  for people to prescribe to a specific line of learning, and in fact those who come along expecting a structured IT lesson are quickly put right.  The shared blog space (http://rasagcomputerclub.wordpress.com/) and encouragement to use email, Youtube, facebook and Twitter alongside learning basic IT skills, such as log on, shut down, highlight, double click, make IT Club more like a conversation club online.  Just like Sheffield’s highly successful conversation clubs, IT Club is not only open to refugees and asylum seekers, but to everyone who wants to talk and share, forming a community.

That’s what we’re doing – and we’re going to keep doing IT.


25 Nov


…. Monday 19th December 12 – 3 PM

Sharrow Old Junior School, South View Road, S7 1DB

Training Suite and Library

Entertainment by IT Clubbers (on Youtube)

GUEST BLOG for visitors – FREE plate of food for guests who blog!

1 pm – 2 pm TWITTER IN 20 MINS – 3 x mini-workshops

£2 food fine for guests who don’t use IT

HOT FOOD – Halal and Vegetarian

BY Sheffield RASAG Members


Bring Kids!

Drop In!


Man of Many Talents

5 Mar

When he’s not cooking up delicious dishes, RASAG member Mustafa is capturing the best bits of the City of Sanctuary Party on video.


Here it is!

HLC funds RASAG employment course

8 Feb

The poor old RASAG blog has been rather neglected of late, but this is not because the group has been inactive – on the contrary, we have been busier than ever!

Back in December RASAG contributed to a wonderful winter celebration in aid of ASSIST – group members cooked a variety of dishes from around the world and a number of us went along to enjoy the music, dancing and performances.  We also faciliatated a performance by wonderful, soon to be famous RASAG friend Pallav Roy – a young man destined for great things!  The event was organised by Sharrow’s own Creative Action Network and Side by Side drama group and was a successful, enjoyable evening.

Going even further back we contributed to a City of Sanctuary event in Gleadless Valley, which sought to address racial tensions in the area by bringing together long term residents with new arrivals, to share stories, food and music and open a dialogue between the groups.  At this event we were pleased to provide some lovely dishes and Yakam Jar Bu got everyone up, holding hands and dancing!

We have decided to hold a weekly session for our members, supporting language needs, signposting volunteering and training opportunities and enabling peer support and advice – we are in the process of applying for funding to support this work.  In the meantime, we have been awarded some funding by Humber Learning Consortium to deliver some Communications and Presentation skills for work training in February.  Learners will be creating a group blog – so this page will soon have a sister!  How exciting!  As part of our bid we are to buy some Flip video cameras, so visitors can expect lots of footage of our work in future!  The training and our weekly sessions will take place at Sharrow Community Forum, Sheffield.

The HLC funding comes from the European Social Fund and is to benefit hard to reach individuals who face significant barriers to employment.

ESF Logo

Public Speaking – Scarier Than Death?

11 Nov

RASAG members were given tickets to a Sheffield United Game

The RASAG group have been busy as ever…  Courtesy of FURD, several members attended a football match at Bramwell Lane Sheffield.  Two members, Firas and Shiran, went on to speak on stage at the Showroom Cinema about the match as part of Sheffield Converation Club’s “Off The Shelf “event, which saw Phil Vasili reading from his book about Walter Tull – one of Britain ’s first black professional footballers in the early 1900s.  We are looking forward to receiving some photo’s of both events so that we can add them to the blog. 

The following week, FURD organised several tickets to view the film Africa United at the Showroom – participating members really enjoyed watching the film.  Firas said of it 

It is really nice film and I know now allot about African people and I know how African people love football. The film show many thinks not just about football, and I think the film is suitable for children and adults and all family but unfortunately it shows many violence views”

RASAG members enjoyed a free trip to the cinema

Last Saturday four RASAG members joined together with members of other community groups to enjoy a day of free public speaking training organised by City of Sanctuary and delivered by Speakers Bank trainer. Jen Skapeti.  The group really enjoyed the day and felt much more confident in speaking at the end of it.  This was a really excellent course which was well structured and delivered.  As part of the group, RASAG members often have to speak in  public with little or no preperation time.  Firstly, during the Legends Project, members were up on stage sharing stories with only one day’s training under their belt.  Since then, members have been required to speak at events such as the You Choose funding event and at the “Off the Shelf” festival mentioned above; considering English is not their first language and many of us confess to public speaking being our worst fear, above illness, povety and even death, this training will prove invaluable – thanks Speakers Bank!

Four RASAG members enjoyed the training

You Choose – RASAG!!

27 Sep

The event was at the Quaker meeting house

RASAG were very happy and excited to come first at the You Choose funding event organised by the Central Community Assembly on 25th September.  It was our first time competing live for funding and we all felt a bit nervous.  It was also unfortunate that our name appeared wrong on the info sheet and voting form, but we made sure to point that out to voters!  We opened our bid with an impromptu RASAG song from Goran, and we filled the rest of our three minutes with with me talking about what RASAG has done so far and Firas expounding the impact the group has had on his life – the audience must have enjoyed it because there were only a few voters who didn’t give us one of their 8 votes! 

The £1000 kindly awarded to us by the Community Assembly will be used to devlop the RASAG identity including membership ID cards, supporters cards and a database to record those working with us, a web domain to start developing a website, and of course, a giant party to launch ourselves to service providers and communities throughout central Sheffield – watch this space for your invite!

See here for details of Sheffield’s Central Community Assembly


Shef Factor – Talent Contest

22 Sep

Goran singing

Sheffield City of Sanctaury and Sheffield Quakers teamed up to create a showcase of talent from around Sheffield, with refugees, asylum seekers, Quakers and other community members taking the opportunity to perform and support each other in a highly successful and unique event.  RASAG had a range of roles within the event; we provided all of the savoury food including fish, kookoo, biryani and dolma – many thanks to Nzazi, Sagheer, Azizeh and Mustafa for their work.  One of our members teamed up with Quaker Friend Rosie to MC the event – well done Spag.  RASAG member Goran performed with his band Jakam Jar Bu – great to see evryone dancing and enjoying the music – thanks Goran and Rasul.  A group of us also performed a story from the Legends storytelling project – big thanks to Firas who told the story and Lemlem, Azizeh and Shiran for bringing it to life!

As a taster of the great talent and diversity of the Shef Factor event, I would like to introduce you to a star of the future – Pallav Roy.  Pallav is a British boy who has bags of talent and kindly turned out with his family to support Sheffield’s City of Sanctuary.  Here he is with two songs at the talent show remember you saw him here first!

Eid Party Pictures

20 Sep

Dancing to Jakam Jar Bu

Many thanks again to Daniel Humble for his work on the RASAG Eid party – a site of pictures from the party is available here – if you were at the party and would like to order copies of the picture please contact Dan – his details are on the picture page.


Ahmed and Goran in traditional costume