Rainbow Haven and BaseballSoftballUK bring softball to refugees and asylum seekers in Manchester

Sat 5 Oct 2019

Outreach work for refugees and asylum seekers in Manchester began this past week as a result of a new partnership between BaseballSoftballUK and Rainbow Haven, a charity based in Salford who provide community drop-in sessions, offering support and activities for refugees, asylum seekers and vulnerable migrants.

Following a series of meetings with Rainbow Haven, free weekly softball sessions for anyone using their centre were set up for every Wednesday morning from 11 AM for the next nine weeks, and the first session took place on 9 October! 

The majority of participants attending these sessions will be from ethnic minorities and, due to their current circumstances, may not be in a position to access organised sport sessions on a regular basis. Additional Satellite funding was granted by GreaterSport, the Active Partnership for Greater Manchester, in order to support this initiative. This will provide those who access support from Rainbow Haven the opportunity to engage in physical activity for an hour a week – proven to be beneficial to both physical and mental health, especially for those who are out of work. A portion of the Satellite funding will also go towards training up to 10 Rainbow Haven participants who want to become BaseballSoftballUK Activators, allowing them to run baseball and softball sessions in their own communities in the future.

Luis Arrevillagas, BSUK Regional Development Manager, commented, “This project is a new venture for us and we’re eager to engage with a new and diverse community. Those attending the sessions will be from lower socio-economic backgrounds and may not have ever heard of softball, never mind played it. We have had an opportunity to access funding to introduce our sports to a new demographic and are excited to see how the project goes.”

During the 10 weeks, the group will also be introduced to the Baseball5 format supported by the WBSC as a more accessible alternative where the equipment needed is minimal; participants need only a ball to play in their neighbourhoods in any available open space.

Simon Hepburn, who has played in the Manchester Softball League for 17 years, will be supporting the sessions as assistant coach. Simon said, “I was thrilled to be asked to be involved in this project alongside the development team in the North West. The refugees are mainly from Ethiopian/Eritrean heritage living in Greater Manchester. I am really excited to take part and to work with a group with contrasting backgrounds, cultures, language and life experiences.”

Linni Mitchell, North West Coach, applied for the grant through Active Partnership GreaterSport. She commented, “I’d like to say a huge thank you to GreaterSport who have supported this project with Satellite funding and recognise the importance of engaging with a group who would be unlikely to participate in baseball/softball without this funding. Funding will also contribute to buying sportswear and trainers for participants who don’t have it. We’d love for this group to form a team in the future to play in a local league.”

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