“On a Tuesday we have young Irish travellers being coached by Afghan unaccompanied minors, the world’s first Table Tennis coach with Down’s syndrome and local white British kids.” Tim Holtam, Co-founder of Brighton Table Tennis Club
This quote captures in one sentence the diversity and inclusive approach of the UK’s first Club of Sanctuary, an award which recognises cities and schools that welcome refugees and asylum seekers.
The work began with Hoang, a child from Vietnam who was the victim of human trafficking. He started attending the club in January 2015 at the suggestion of his social worker. Now 19, Hoang is a qualified table tennis coach, and was recently granted leave to remain in the country for five years. His involvement in the club was cited by the Home Office as evidence of strong connections to his community.
But the club doesn’t stop with providing a refuge for young asylums seekers – its members also include Harry Fairchild, who is the national Down’s syndrome champion and first ever sports coach with Down’s syndrome; a player who recently travelled to compete in the over-80s championship, and a girl ranked top five in the UK’s under-13s league. It’s actually a club of sanctuary for everyone.