October 2000: The Birth of ARKH
ARKH was originally formed by Lynne Colley (AKA Shna) and like-minded individuals who worked in conjunction with a group of asylum seekers and refugees in order to develop services that could address the various problems faced by this section of the community.
At the time there were no organisations in Hull providing specific support to asylum seekers and refugees. Also, the majority of asylum seekers arriving in Hull at this time were Iraqi Kurds and, due to a lack of available interpretation services in the locale, Kurds in Hull were usually reliant on Arabic/English speakers in order to communicate their needs. This created significant language barriers and contributed to the isolation of Hull’s new Kurdish community.
In response, a steering group was established in order to create a voice for asylum seekers and refugees in Hull. The majority of participants were asylum seekers themselves and the first meeting attracted over 30 people and included representatives from the Kurdish and Afghani communities as well as a significant number of local people.
3rd January: FUSION Event
The steering group were keen to organise an event that would showcase their culture and traditions and establish a dialogue with the people of Hull that might promote integration and cultural exchange in the city.
The event at Hull City Hall, which featured live drama, music, poetry and dance attracted around 1000 people and helped to kick-start relationships with a number of different organisations and it was these links that effectively launched ARKH as an organisation in its own right.
February 2001: Advice Service
Initially, ARKH established two drop-in sessions at Beverley Road Community Centre in order to provide advice and support. One of these sessions was run in conjunction with the Ethnic Minorities Project (Hull Citizens Advice Bureau). During these early days, ARKH’s resources were particularly scarce and volunteers relied on the use of one ‘pay-as-you-go’ mobile phone provided by Humberside Police in order to progress enquiries on behalf of their clients!
On 16 May 2002, ARKH first became registered as a not for profit company limited by guarantee.
June 2002: New Premises
As ARKH was becoming established, the group realised that more space was needed in order to maintain their current levels of service and expand their activities. On 1st June 2002 ARKH moved into the back two rooms of 22-23 Albion Street this created a new space for the drop-in sessions and allowed room for the development of new projects.
ARKH also established a partnership with the Willow Women’s Centre in order to teach English via the medium of craft work.
2003: New Partnerships
In 2003 ARKH was approached by Spring Bank Tigers, a local football team composed mainly of Kurdish players. The club were looking for help and advice in order to maintain their team and respond to the difficulties they were facing in the community. Since that time ARKH has supported and facilitated the team, helping them to source funding, providing office space, storage and IT facilities.
ARKH also worked with a diverse range of organisations in order to develop or host community focused projects. For example, Hull College ran a project for refugee young people called the Voyager Project which made use of ARKH’s premises on a daily basis.
In 2006 the opportunity arose for the front parts of the building to be brought into use. This created a lot more space, flexibility and opportunities to development our range of services.
An International Friendship Group for Women was formed in order to provide opportunities for sharing experiences, learning, and socialising. The group were involved in craft activities, organising trips and inviting representatives from other organisations to workshops and presentations to the group.
During the summer of 2006, ARKH was also approached by YPSS (Young People’s Support Service of Hull City Council) and the Children’s Fund to run craft activities for a group of girls.
A further successful grant from the Home Office Challenge Fund meant that ARKH was able to employ three members of staff to start up a counselling and befriending project with a specific refugee focus.
ARKH responded to an increased demand for English classes amongst female refugees by developing the International Friendship Group for Women into an English class for women only.
Severe flooding in June affected the whole of the front part of the building and resulted in all work, once again, being carried done in the 2 rooms at the back facing Baker Street. This greatly hindered the development of ARKH and it was a considerable challenge to continue to host the various projects within a severely limited space.
ARKH continue to expand its outreach role and on 17th October 2007, organised a large-scale Kurdish event at Hull City Hall. The night included music, poetry and fashion and attracted a large audience which included local people and representatives from the major BME communities in Hull.
2008: big Changes / New Stakeholders
The repair work due to the damage from the floods was finally completed in the first half of the year and, with funding from the British Red Cross, ARKH was able to hold a celebration to ‘re-open’ the building. The event was a huge success and kick-started further developments at ARKH.
The end of 2008 saw the reluctant departure of two of ARKH’s founders who left the organisation for pastures new. Although we were sad to see them go, we wished them all the best for their future careers!
The Northern Refugee Centre (NRC), an organisation that also supports the integration of refugees and asylum seekers, approached ARKH in order to discuss a potential collaboration. NRC needed a place in Hull for some of their employees to work and were particularly keen to find a location that was frequented and well regarded by the refugee and asylum community. By November 2008, two of their projects had found a new home at ARKH, these were RIES (the Refugee Integration and Employment Service) and the RCOF (Refugee Community Organisation Forum).
In a parallel development, the Refugee Council in Leeds approached ARKH to discuss bringing their outreach team to Hull. This led to ARKH hosting fortnightly outreach services in line with the One Stop Service.
The Gateway Project (Refugee Council) also required space to develop their for drop-in services for clients. This worked well with ARKH’s existing portfolio and and helped to bring a ‘basket’ of refugee services under one roof.
ARKH was also able to take-on its first full-time employee – a Projects Co-ordinator, responsible for managing all the services, co-ordinating volunteers, liaising with external partners and developing the work of ARKH. This was much needed, ARKH had by this time expanded rapidly and established key relationships with a broad range of organisations within the city and the region.
2009: Developing As An Advice Centre
The major development of 2009 was ARKH’s registration with the Office of Immigration Services Commission (OISC). This enabled ARKH Advice Workers and volunteers to undertake relevant training and offer immigration advice to their clients. NRC supported ARKH in this venture by providing a comprehensive training programme which was also opened up to other organisations in the city.
The development and installation of a new online database also allowed ARKH to develop to a more efficient and professional service to clients and has proved to be an invaluable tool for case management at ARKH.
2009 also saw the establishment of Women Refugees and Asylum Seekers of Hull (WORAH) through a joint venture with the Refugee Council. WORAH was established as a membership group in order to bring together female refugees and asylum seekers with women from the local community. Key activities include a weekly sewing group, with other activities (including a Food Festival and a visit to the Humber Bridge) being organised on a regualr basis.
2010: Setbacks and New Directions
General economic conditions and pressures on public spending have already had a significant effect on ARKH’s funding streams. At the same time, our client group have also experienced various difficulties associated with a period of general austerity and economic inactivity.
In order to meet these challenges and respond to our client group, ARKH has given serious consideration to the issue of unemployment and underemployment amongst refugees in Hull. ARKH’s hosting of the RIES project originally brought this issue into sharp focus and led us to explore various ways and means through which to address an alarming gap in employment rates between the general population of Hull and those from a BME background.
Recently, ARKH successfully gained funding from the Working Neighbourhoods Fund in order to provide two comprehensive training programmes entitled ‘Employability Skills for New Communities’ and ‘Understanding UK Workplace Culture’. These courses will commence in November 2010, with further sessions running on a rolling basis until October 2011.
2011: New Funding Streams
Continued pressures on statutory funding have further encouraged ARKH to develop a mixed fundraising economy and recent activity has focussed on the opportunities offered by Foundations and Trusts. Applying to new funders has encouraged us to better reflect on the services that we offer and undertake further quantitative and qualitative research into ARKH’s internal performance, outputs and outcomes.
In January 2011, following an application process, ARKH received the welcome news that they had been selected by the Lloyds TSB Foundation for two-year funding. This funding will cover a proportion of ARKH’s costs in the coming two years and represents a crucial first-step in securing our future service delivery.
2013: Additional funding
2014: The NRC(ARKH) team expands
2014: NRC(ARKH) relocates
On 29th May 2014 NRC(ARKH) moved to new improved premises at Marvell House. Since 2012 the increase in demand for our services has meant that the old premises were no longer suitable for the provision of high quality, professional services. At Marvell House we will have a large, well equipped advice room plus access to excellent training facilities. Our anticipated opening day will be Monday 16th June 2014.
This is only a brief history of ARKH. Hopefully there will be much more to come!
Who knows what the future may bring!….