Stockton Baptist Church is grateful for the financial support received from Catalyst’s (CDCF- NET) Maintaining and Improving Mental Health during the Covid-19 Crisis and Sport England’s Tackling Inequalities Funds to reach vulnerable people in the local community.

The Refugee and Asylum Ministry has not been able to operate the weekly drop-ins from our church building during lockdown.  The abrupt changes brought by the Coronavirus had a significant impact on the RAS community in Stockton, particularly those newly arrived (60 women and children in a hotel in town). We have been working in partnership with the Home Office housing provider Mears and the British Red Cross to provide assistance.

With funds from Catalyst (CDCF- NET) we were able to engage with the ladies in crafts, creative activities such as face mask making and board games.  We could also continue to give financial support for food, toiletries and mobile phone top-up for destitute asylum seekers, both men and women.  Now with the Sport’s England fund we will be able to offer the ladies the physical exercise activities that they requested like tennis, volley ball, skipping, walks etc.  All these activities help boost not only physical, but also mental health, as feelings of isolation, helplessness and depression were expressed by many.

The activities that we have been able to initiate with the new arrivals at the hotel have helped to alleviate some of this and to develop friendships. The ladies are starting to integrate into the local community and enjoy the walks locally exploring nature along the riverside.  This is enabling the ladies to learn the English language and feel more confident about their new life in UK.  They are feeling less isolated now and really appreciate the social connections.

Chair of the RAS Ministry and church Elder Cath Ingram said “It has been encouraging to see the group begin to gel together and to become more inclusive of the varying nationalities”.  Comments such as “Thank you for making us have good moments” and “Thank you for a good day together” have been expressed after the sessions. We are grateful for the support from Catalyst and Sports England that is helping us facilitate this with the residents.

Also when the doors of church closed in March the Men’s group had to stop meeting, so we needed to think of new ways to engage whilst maintaining Government recommendations of social distancing.  The men, most who suffer from mental ill health and many who have attempted suicide, found the lockdown a particularly difficult period.  They needed supporting in many ways to combat the social isolation and assistance from professional organisations regarding mental health and other provision.  These resources enabled the men to be called weekly and offered individual walks and bike rides as the restrictions lifted.  Now we are able to meet again in a group of up to 6 people for walks and bike rides where we search for “geo caches” and explore new places around Stockton and further afield by peddle power together.  The group spent the past year learning about the 5 Ways to Wellbeing (Connect, Keep active, Keep learning, Give and Take notice) and have now been able to put these into practise again with these activities.

The group leader, Katharine Lam said “It’s been such a blessing to continue to connect with the 20 men from different backgrounds and nationalities living in Stockton and Middlesbrough during this time to maintain and build upon the relationships made.”

One young man in his 20’s said “during lockdown I felt socially isolated, it affected my sleep and eating patterns and I missed not meeting with the men in the group, but now I can get out of the house and meet up again.”

A Refugee in his 30’s said “I really struggled during this time, I felt lonely, isolated, lacked motivation and direction, but this group has helped me to have focus and look at life in a more positive way.”

Another group member in his 40’s said “I enjoy the group walks again as I can open up and share my stress with others in a non-judgemental way.  It’s good to have someone there to listen as my mental health was really affected during lockdown.”

A participant in his 50’s said “the support I receive from this group is like a lifeline to me, it’s good to have someone to talk to and to share activities with.”

The men are interested in giving back to their local community so if you know of a local area that will like some extra hands cleaning up- litter picking etc. please let me know (, 07756539210).

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