Magazine article New Internationalist

Batting for Integration

Magazine article New Internationalist

Batting for Integration

Article excerpt

The Brighton Table Tennis Club has become the first in Britain to be awarded 'Club of Sanctuary' status for its work with unaccompanied refugee children.

The founding principle of the club - which displays a 'Refugees welcome' sign proudly above the reception desk - is to use table tennis as a way to encourage respect and solidarity.

When the European refugee crisis heightened in 2015, the club stepped up its existing work with migrants to focus on making young refugees active members.

Some young people - from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq and Kurdistan, among other places - have since gone on to become club volunteers and trained coaches.

The club gives those new to Britain a ready-made community. 'I always loved cricket but had never seen table tennis before I came to England,' says Farhad, a 15-year-old from Afghanistan. 'Now I love it, playing competitions and training at the club.'

'We're uncomfortable with the idea of "charity" because we think that the work we've done benefits everyone,' says club chair and co-founder Harry McCarney, who has seen attitudes improve among Brighton residents who previously saw migrants as a threat. …

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