On the back of our winter outreach programme with refugees and individuals seeking asylum, we have further extended our outreach programme with the help of the ECB and Refugee Support Devon.
The work carried out over our winter programme caught the attention of Jury Arevalo, Outreach Coordinator at Refugee Support Devon, who was approached by Devon Cricket to extend the support further afield:
"It all began when Alex [Jopling], whose unwavering support for asylum seekers at another hotel was already widely known, shared the news of our new hotel opening its doors to families with children," Jury said. "Alex approached me with an extraordinary offer to organize captivating cricket activities for the children."
The hotel in question had just opened its doors to around 300 people seeking asylum, predominantly made up of families with young kids. Further conversations took place with Jury and Jason Wood of Active Devon and a site visit determined that the hotel car park provided an excellent space to provide street cricket. With a number of ECB bursary places still available for both All Stars and Dynamos Cricket programmes in the region, the plan came together.
"From the very first email exchange, it became abundantly clear that Alex's dedication and commitment knew no bounds. He swiftly registered participants and personally delivered their cricket kit. In June, the eagerly anticipated sessions commenced, led by the dynamic trio of Alex, Damian [Price], and their invaluable colleague, Andy [Fairbairn, ECB]."
There are now over 50 participants across the two programmes. The ECB funding has also provided participants with a personalised t-shirt, bat and balls, allowing them to continue playing cricket outside of the weekly sessions. Despite the challenge presented by the language barrier, the kids have been enjoying the sessions and their parents are happy to see them trying cricket out for the first time:
"My two daughters are very happy playing cricket, it's the first for them and they love it!" said one parent.
Another parent thanked the organisations involved in setting up the sessions: "Thank you for this initiative. My children are happy and waiting for this day [All Stars and Dynamos evenings] to join and play."
Jury sang the praises of the programme and the effect it has had on the residents:
"This remarkable initiative not only provides a platform for learning and recreation, but it also fosters a profound sense of joy that transcends cultural boundaries, knitting our community together in unity and harmony.
"The profound impact of this programme has far exceeded our expectations. The smiles and enthusiasm displayed by the children, their grateful parents, and even the dedicated resident volunteers are truly heartwarming."
One of these resident volunteers is Anisa, who was interested in helping out as her younger sister is a Dynamos participant:
"I wanted to help with cricket because seeing the kids happy makes me happy as well. Helping people is a good thing."
Despite not knowing much about cricket before arriving in England, Anisa has quickly learnt to enjoy the sport: "Helping out and seeing the movements and everything else... I started knowing what cricket is and I really like cricket now, so it's one of my favourite games!"
Jury was keen to thank Devon Cricket and the partners involved in the delivery of the programme:
"We extend our heartfelt gratitude to Alex and his exceptional team for their unwavering dedication, relentless efforts, and boundless love poured into crafting this extraordinary programme. The cricket programme stands as an exquisite embodiment of the positive change we can achieve when we extend a helping hand, embracing the bountiful richness of our collective experiences."