Written by Lucy Ivens – Volunteer at ACAA
As we begin to gear up in preparation for the holiday festivities, it hardly seems possible that the time has come to be last-minute shopping and writing cards for friends and family. How quickly the year has flown by! It hardly feels like any time has passed since 2017 began, and here we are waving it goodbye! Somehow, in the time between, we’ve squeezed in a jam packed 12 months filled with expansion, events and education.
Here at the Afghanistan and Central Asian Association, our family is growing! We welcomed into the fold our new office based in Hounslow, and with it the scope to provide more services and skills to those refugees most in need, as well as the space to hire more volunteers. As Hounslow has the greatest concentration of Afghan refugees in the UK, our reach has expanded exponentially and the range of services we provide includes more free legal advice, ESOL classes and Saturday education for local children from our target communities than we were able to provide in Deptford.
The year has yielded a wealth of exciting events, both entertainment and fundraising oriented. Our flagship fundraiser this year took the form of an Eid dinner in June, which raised £400 to support the work of our new Hounslow office, whilst enjoying a night of traditional Afghan food, music and dance in the ABSHAR Banqueting Hall, West Ealing. These events have proved incredibly successful, with many men, women and children from the local community joining in the fun! Alongside fundraisers, the ACAA also hosted a fabulous 19 social and cultural events, aimed at bringing together the community in a safe and casual setting, whilst enjoying Afghani music, poetry, art, dance and other entertainment.
Backed by the Home Office for the fourth year running, our Zanan Prevent project reached new heights, and more women, than ever before. We held fortnightly workshops, debates and events which addressed issues surrounding radicalism and extremism in the UK, as well as well-being talks and fitness classes to support the mental health of the women we help. In Hounslow, we formed new partnerships with local organisations to help provide expert classes on issues such as ICT and CV writing. As a result, we are now helping more vulnerable women to gain valuable skills, all the while making friends and socialising in a new, fun setting!
In a similar way, our Hounslow expansion has enabled us to run more supplementary schools in the local area, reaching an extra 50 children and supporting them in English, Maths and Science, building upon the excellent work that started in our Lewisham offices. Helping vulnerable children to become more confident in their abilities and improve their language skills has been a primary aim of the ACAA since its conception, and we are very proud of the commitment and energy our volunteers and staff bring to the organisation to make initiatives such as these a resounding success!
Our free legal services have also continued to run this year, with a new partnership in Hounslow seeing a solicitor in our offices every Thursday to offer impartial, free legal advice to those most in need.
2018 is already shaping up to be just as busy as 2017! With several new initiatives in the pipeline, such as the opening of a disability centre and the reopening of the citizens advice centre in Kabul, Afghanistan, which our volunteers are hard at work writing funding proposals to various charitable donors for. Preparations in the office continue, planning a New Years event in March which will be one of the largest the organisation has done to date, with a venue large enough to hold 400 people!
So 2017 draws to a close as a fantastic year for the Afghanistan and Central Asian Association – and the organisation has great pride in the relentless hard work of their staff and volunteers, in the achievements of the rapidly growing organisation, and the new friendships and relationships that have developed within the local community.
A Happy New Year from all of us here at ACAA. We look forward to seeing you in 2018!