Table Tennis contest builds community and hope for asylum seekers

PUBLISHED: 23 June 2023

A group of asylum seekers residing at a Home Office asylum contingency hotel in Colchester have organised a table tennis competition with the help of Community360, to help pass the time and lift their spirits.

The tournament, which took place on Wednesday during Refugee Week, provided a unique opportunity for asylum seekers to participate in a friendly competition and showcase their talent, as they continue to deal with additional challenges of displacement, social isolation, and uncertainty around their future.

The event was co-organised by Martyn Green, one of Community360’s transport drivers, who often picks up passengers from the hotel. Martyn, who is active in the world of table tennis, often stays late to play against the men and used his sporting connections to borrow all the equipment needed for the tournament – including prizes from the sport’s governing body, Table Tennis England.

Rachel Durmishi, Executive lead for Thriving Communities at Community360, said: The tournament was such a fantastic idea, and I would like to thank Martyn for all his hard work to make the event possible. Martyn has created a welcoming safe space where the men could freely take part in sport, enabling them to socialise and interact with each other. I am delighted that we could showcase locally something that’s truly positive and helping them to adjust to their new lives.”

Among the spectators watching the contest and presenting trophies were Cllr David King, the leader of Colchester City Council, and Cllr Natalie Sommers, Portfolio Holder for Communities.

Speaking after the event, Cllr King said: “Colchester has a long history of supporting those fleeing war and persecution – in more recent times Afghans who supported our Armed Forces and Ukrainians displaced by Russia’s war.

“Our rich cultural heritage has always been enhanced by our diverse population. It is a tradition that we are proud to continue as a City of Sanctuary that understands how tough it is for strangers to be so far from home. Thanks to those who made possible a very positive and community day for others.”

Cllr Natalie Sommers added: “Sport can have a profoundly positive impact on the lives of asylum seekers, providing them with a sense of belonging and a way to connect with others and alleviate feelings of social isolation.

“The individuals and families I met yesterday face numerous challenges, such as language barriers, limited access to healthcare and education, social exclusion, and uncertainty around their future. Many are forced to navigate complex legal systems, undergo extensive background checks, and attend numerous interviews to claim asylum.

“The tournament was a powerful reminder of the importance of humanitarian efforts and the role of sport in finding common ground to help support the mental and emotional wellbeing of displaced persons.”

Pictured above, front-left: Martyn Green with his table tennis team.
Middle/back, left to right: Yovone Cook, Colchester City Council; Scott Tatum, Community360; Cllr Natalie Sommers; Cllr David King, and the winner of the tournament

Page last reviewed: 23 June 2023


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