RFN’s FC-AXS Report: Burnley FC
Burnley FC occupies a distinct position in the community by welcoming and assisting refugees.
Corner Kick Editor’s Note: Welcome to Corner Kick, a column written exclusively by the reporters of #RefugeeFootballNetwork. This week’s column kicks off our series called FC-AXS (Access) in which we explore what football clubs around the world are doing to support refugees in their communities and abroad. First up is #BurnleyFC.
#RFN reporter, Tamanji Logodi, did considerable research on Burnley, a club which was mired in controversy a few years ago due to the harm caused by a few misguided souls. We wanted to set the record straight. As part of his research, Tamanji also interviewed Michael Colquhoun, Director of Community Projects, Burnley FC In The Community who provided valuable information to RFN about the great work the club is doing. This is Tamanji’s report:
My name is Tamanji Logodi and I am a refugee from Sudan and now living in the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya. I am a passionate football fan and I also do weekly commentary on the Premier League for RFN.
Who would have thought that there are teams out there busy welcoming and helping refugees to settle and adapt to the new environment? It is amazing, right?
Burnley F.C. is unique. Apart from participating in community football
activities as many other teams do, Burnley FC makes a special effort off the pitch to connect with refugees living in its community as evidenced by its official Charity, Burnley FC In The Community.
Through those efforts, Burnley FC in the Community reaches out to offer help to refugees and asylum seekers and the results make Burnley one of the most hospitable and advantageous places to house refugees.
Burnley FC also collaborates with other charity-based organizations through its Clarets Welcome Project including Woman’s Voice, and Burnley Pendle Rossendale Council for volunteer service, among others. This has been particularly helpful to the large community of Syrian refugees who have been displaced by the ongoing violence in Syria. With the Charity’s support, many of them are hosted in homes in Burnley and East Lancashire.
Clarets Welcome project offers free weekly football and support sessions to refugees at the Leisure Box in Brierfield. Participants can enjoy football in a friendly setting during these training sessions, learn new skills, socialize with other people, and make friends. “I do come here to enjoy myself with my friends. We make new friends,” said Ousama, a Syrian immigrant, while taking part in a Claret Welcome Project-sponsored free training session. The training session offers the migrants optimism because they feel important, especially when Burnley FC stars like Jay Rodriquez and Matt Lowton visit and train with them. Meeting and taking a “selfie” with professional footballers is an extra bonus.
Along with the free weekly lessons, the Clarets Welcome Project also arranges competitions for Syrian refugees. The players group themselves according to the EPL teams they support. Burnley FC’s inclusion in the community head and head of the Claret initiative, Michael Colquhoun, stated “We are proud to play a part in supporting these families and making refugees feel part of our community. Not only do they have the chance to play regular football, but we are also helping them with possible pathways to employment through volunteering opportunities that further help their integration into the community. The Football Welcomes weekend promotes such work on a national scale.”
The “A taste of Syria” event, which was put on by Woman’s Voice, Burnley FC in the Community, and Burnley Pendle Rossendale Council for Volunteer Service (CVS), is still remembered for the astonishing moment when Syrian refugees ate with the Burnley community. The fascinating element is that Syrian refugees who have recently relocated to Burnley made the food for the occasion at Burnley Community Kitchen, which was sponsored by Woman’s Voice. As the host community consumed cuisine prepared in Syrian fashion, the occasion made the Syrians feel welcomed and at home.
The opportunity presented by “A Taste of Syria” was ideal for raising awareness and funding to assist the families in setting up social integration activities that will deepen their understanding of British culture and values. In our interview with Michael, he was thrilled to tell us that through the event, one of the Syrian chefs who had forfeited his career back in Syria regained hope.
The Chef got an opportunity to showcase his skills so much so that it led to him being hired to work in a restaurant, thus making a future for himself, through the help of local partners. As a refugee, I comprehend how useful it feels to get an opportunity to proceed with your career in an unfamiliar country.
Following the occasion, Burnley refugees welcomed Leicester City’s project and played against Sudanese refugees (of which I am one), demonstrating that football is a language that is spoken by all and unifies people, something Burnley FC not only understands, but takes charge in implementing.
It is incredible seeing fellow refugees in foreign countries organizing and playing friendly matches. It is a fantastic opportunity of developing hope and resilience for the refugees. Clarets project also partnered in distributing Burnley shirts to Syrian refugees. The program also extends and supports kids in primary and secondary schools.
The Burnley, Pendle, and Rossendale Council for Voluntary Service assist Syrian refugees by providing English classes. The goal of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) is to teach English to Syrian refugees so they may apply for jobs in the United Kingdom. Through that, refugees are in a position to create a future themselves. “When a refugee arrives, it’s our role to ensure we create a favorable and easy-to-adapt environment for them. We have great staff and partners that want to help ” said Mr. Colquhoun during our interview with him.
All in all, Burnley FC is a shining example of doing things right. So bravo, Burnley FC in the Community for taking a leadership role, welcoming refugees and helping so many in the refugee community.