Leeds Refugee Forum
Leeds Refugee Forum envisions that refugees and asylum seekers in Leeds feel welcome and safe, access support and are provided with every opportunity to rebuild their lives.
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Leeds charity to help hundreds of refugees get online with free tablet lending scheme

Leeds Refugee Forum is one of five winning charities to receive a grant from Hubbub and Virgin Media O2’s Tech Lending Community Fund.

A Leeds charity which supports refugees across the city is celebrating after being awarded a share of £400,000 to run a tablet lending scheme, thanks to funding from environmental charity, Hubbub, and Virgin Media O2. Leeds Refugee Forum is one of just five charities across the UK to be awarded a grant from Hububb and Virgin Media O2’s Tech Lending Community Fund, to provide tablets and data to people who need them. The charity supports refugees by providing training and resources to help them develop new skills and integrate into the local community.​ Fund set up to tackle digital isolation and e-waste.

Thanks to the funding, Leeds Refugee Forum will provide 200 tablets via its existing tech hub to help people living in temporary accommodation access essential services, such as healthcare appointments, mental health support, training courses, and to apply for jobs and to take part in virtual interviews. The tablets will also be powered by free mobile data provided by the National Databank, set up by Virgin Media O2 and digital inclusion charity, Good Things Foundation to tackle data poverty. The grant fund is also supported by Amazon which is providing an additional £100,000 to support the running costs of the lending hubs.

The Tech Lending Scheme also supports the circular economy by rehoming tablets with people who need them, giving them a second life so they can be lent again and again, and prevents them from ending up in landfill as e-waste. The initiative forms part of Virgin Media O2’s Better Connections Plan – the company’s new sustainability strategy to create a better, more connected and greener world for everyone. The Tech Lending Community Fund is one of the ways Virgin Media O2 will reach its goal to connect one million digitally excluded people through free and affordable connectivity and services by 2025.

Ali Mahgoub, Director Leeds Refugee Forum said:

“Becoming a Tech Lending Community Hub will enable us to help support many more refugees access vital online services and improve opportunities, social equality and language skills. Digital technology is now very much at the heart of how our members’, public, economic and social life functions. These devices will help our users integrate into society; access the benefits online; take part in remote education; shop online and improve their communication skills with the centre, families, schools and the community. Being able to access both social media to keep in contact with family, and entertainment is also key to helping tackle social isolation and mental health.”

Alex Robinson, CEO of Hubbub said:

“We are delighted to announce Leeds Refugee Forum as one of five recipients of funding from the Tech Lending Community Fund. This unique community lending scheme has two key benefits; it allows people at their most vulnerable to access essential services and stay in touch with loved ones, and it also tackles e-waste by giving another life to unwanted tablets and diverting them from ending up in landfill or incineration. We look forward to supporting Leeds Refugee Forum with resources and guidance as they roll out their programme, as well as witnessing the impact the tablets will have on the beneficiaries in Leeds.”

Nicola Green from Virgin Media O2 said:

“For people living in temporary accommodation and at risk of digital exclusion, having access to devices and data can be a lifeline. That’s why we’re proud to support Leeds Refugee Forum Trust with the Tech Lending Community Fund to help them support refugees across the city so they can get online and access the services they need. This is just one of the ways Virgin Media O2 is working to connect one million digitally excluded people through free and affordable connectivity and services by 2025, as part of our new Better Connections Plan to help people to lead better, more connected, and greener lives.”

The Tech Lending Community Fund builds on Hubbub and Virgin Media O2’s Community Calling programme which launched in 2020, and has redistributed more than 10,000 Donated Smartphones and data to people who need them. For more information about the fund and winners, visit www.techlendingcommunityfund.co.uk

Case study – an example of a family Leeds Refugee Forum has recently supported: The Temeh Family have four children who are members of Leeds Refugee Forum’s Homework Club and Youth Group. They are at various academic levels with different needs. The family has only one laptop and a non-android phone. Both the parents and children were struggling without I.T equipment. Our digital inclusion project issued the family with a laptop so the children can do back-to-back Zoom calls, do their school work, and their parents can access services online. It has improved the children’s engagement and performance at school, while their parents have more access to help and info online. The Temeh family said:

“We would like to thank Leeds Refugee Forum for the laptops and online zoom support. Your supportive staff have been crucial to our children’s online education. As parents we are so happy to be part of your Homework Club and Youth Group.”

Leeds Refugee Forum envisions that refugees and asylum seekers in Leeds feel welcome and safe, access support and are provided with every opportunity to rebuild their lives. What We do:

Practical Support: We offer practical support for refugees and asylum seekers through English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes, homework clubs and youth groups; Refugee Community Organisation Support. We develop and support community leaders through training, personal development, mentoring and one-to-one appointments; Advocacy. We advocate for the needs and aspirations of refugee communities through bilingual advocacy (by appointment only) and working collaboratively with other organisations to provide extra services for refugees and asylum seekers; Community Social Space. Refugee Week: we celebrate refugees by annually hosting a celebration week in partnership with agencies across Leeds.

We provide a community centre that is a safe space where refugees can meet and find mutual support www.leedsrefugeeforum.org.uk

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