We turn our mission into a reality by:

  • Delivering a personal development workshops for refugees and asylum seekers to enable them reach their full potential and find their new place in the world
  • Delivering a cross-cultural training to locals, refugees and asylum seekers to enable building stronger intercultural bridges
  • Offering a weekly one-to-one and peer mentoring help refugees and asylum seekers stay on track
  • Providing volunteering opportunities for refugees and asylum seekers in local prpjects where they overcome social isolation, live their life purpose and embrace cultural diversity
  • Facilitating inclusive community events and gatherings where local people, refugees and asylum seekers connect and build intercultural bridges

Day 6, 7 and 8
Dates: 16th, 23rd, 24th September
Time: 9.15am – 4.30pm
Venue: White House – Dartington (transport is provided from Plymouth to Dartington and Back)
Accommodation: The retreat in days 7 & 8 will be a residential weekend. The training starts on 9:15 am on Saturday and finished at 4:30 on Sunday. This means people will stay over night on day 7 where a free accommodation will be provided as part of the programme. The accommodation will be gender specific, means women and men will be staying in separate floors in the building. You can check out accommodation details here.


Food & Drinks: There will be vegetarian meals, snacks and drinks available throughout the 4 days, except for dinner on Day7 at Dartington, where people will bring a dish from their own culture to share with others.


This is residential weekend held at Dartington. This 2-day retreat will be attended by refugees, asylum seekers and other UK residents to help people build cross-cultural communication skills and social bridges. In this weekend you will:

  • Enjoy a relaxing weekend at Dartington estate
  • Participate in fun indoor and outdoor activities and a nature walk in the beautiful gardens of Dartington
  • Connect with people from different backgrounds and make new friends
  • Attend our cross-cultural training in the mornings were you will:
    • Learn about how culture affects the way we see the world and relate to others
    • Learn about the visible and invisible aspects of culture which can lead to misunderstanding (body language-including greetings, eye contact, perceptions of time, space and values)
    • Explore cultural communication styles around the world
    • Gain insight into how to navigate misunderstandings and build social and cultural bridges.


Saif Ali is a life coach, community engagement facilitator, public speaker, founder and director of Embracing Refugees, co-founder of Beyond Borders Totnes & District.

I have been empowering adults through my Passion2Action programme to help them discover their passions and start doing what brings their purpose to life, beyond their perceived limitations.

I have lived a seemingly limiting life for 18 years of it. I fled my home country when I was 17 escaping persecution. While seeking asylum for 18 years, I wasn’t allowed to earn money, and I was living in limbo for that entire period. I was homeless for many years of them which severely affected my health then.

I had to learn how to dance with fear, embrace uncertainty and seek every possibility to connect with the greatness of life and keep my passion and purpose alive. This was the greatest resource of strength I had.

I succeeded to create a rich life that was full of possibilities where money wasn’t the centre of it. I studied many courses and kept my skills, talents and learning alive through volunteering in different projects and leading institutes around the UK. All that helped me stay positively engaged in the world and resulted in shaping my current career. I made great connections with inspiring people and kept my eyes and soul connected to a vision of a promising future where I can make a positive difference in the world.

This showed me how a shift in the way we see life and ourselves can open our eyes to the vast potential we carry, and how we can shape a new way of embracing life, beyond limitations.

Was life challenging at times? Yes. Most of the time.

Did it feel endlessly painful? Sure it did.

Have I lost hope? MANY times.

BUT…. I never lost my passion for doing what I love.

Keeping my passion and purpose alive have held my crumbling world together and kept me connected to something bigger than my life challenging circumstances.

This is what I mastered and sharing it with and empowering people who are sinking in the same areas I’ve survived became my life mission.


  • Day 5: Clarify your direction in life
    In this day each participant will have a one-to-one career coaching session that lasts for 1.45 hour. This session will help you:

    • Gain a clearer vision of your life goals and career path
    • Create a mission statement that reflects who you are and your current life mission.


To make sure that our service users continue progressing in life and at work followup-supportwe partnered with the Racial Equality Council to run weekly gender-specific peer support groups for men and women in Plymouth.

We regularly invite professionals from the personal growth and wellbeing sector to facilitate some of activities and workshops. Through group activities, explorations, individual reflections and one-to-one mentoring, participants continue to gain life and professional skills to help them:

  • Build confidence
  • Succeed in life and at work
  • Improve their general wellbeing and lifestyle
  • Learn how to manage stress
  • Connect with other avenues of local support in Plymouth and around
  • Meet like-minded people and make new friends
  • Have a creative, fun and relaxing time

People also get the chance to have one-to-one support from mentors to address specific issues in their life.

Our meetings take place in:
Kinsman room (upstairs)
Sherwell Church North Hill
Plymouth PL4 8ER 

If you are interested in joining us, please contact Julie or Vanessa on 01752 224555.

Secure meaningful volunteering and build work experience by connecting you with volunteer opportunities in your local area. We coordinate this in collaboration with the Plymouth Guild and the Give Back project.

  • develop problem solving skills
  • plan, analyse and develop projects
  • and manage your time effectively
  • build daily routines that lead to future success
  • develop effective communication skills within a group




. This helps people overcome cultural isolation and the social marginalization and gives them the opportunity to deepen the connections they established with other UK residents, make new friends and build emotional resilience.




  • Designed and delivered by Saif Ali, personal growth coach and group facilitator, Passion4Change is a 4-day personal and professional development training. It aims to empower refugees and asylum seekers and help them gain the clarity and motivation, and develop the skills they need to claim their true potential and take part in creating a better, fairer and more beautiful world for all by doing work they are passionate about.Through individual reflections, creative activities and group discussions people will be able to:
    • Create a new vision for a fulfilling future with purpose in mind
    • Discover their real passions, personal strengths and hidden abilities
    • Increase their future employability by learning transferable skills like:
      • plan and analyse projects
      • set goals and how to effectively achieve them
      • work collaboratively in a team
      • find creative solutions to problems
      • prioritize tasks and manage their time and energy
      • build daily routines that lead to future success
      • communicate effectively with individuals and within a team
    • Learn how to overcome their life limitations and start building new habits for resilience and success
    • Create an actionable plan to help them achieve their goals and turn their vision to reality
    • Start making a positive difference in their community by doing work they truly love
    • Boost self-confidence
    • Meet like-minded people and make new friends

    • We have also created a blog and a facebook page where we posts practical tips and motivational material to help refugees and asylum seekers continue their personal development journey and build resilience. Connect with our thriving community on facebook_logo_square Passion4Change

      passion4change_2  passion4change_4 passion4change_3passion4change_1


  • Receive community Support: We work closely with Beyond Borders Totnes & District to meet some of our service users’ individual needs. This varies from offering lifts, befriending, therapeutic support, outings, temporary housing and skill share.
  • Join local events and activities organised by us or other refugee support agencies to help people stay socially engaged and build cultural bridges.




Participants will leave with a printed package that includes:

  1. An actionable plan/ road map for their future success
  2. Personal CV
  3. Practical guide on:
    • Successful planning and goal setting
    • Creative problem solving
    • Productivity and time management
    • Teamwork and communication skills
  4. Daily planner worksheet
  5. Certificate of attendance




Integr8 is a project designed to set a solid ground for building a strong multi-cultural community in South Devon by empowering and equipping local people, refugees and asylum seekers with the tools needed to integrate through volunteering in local projects and organizations where everyone feels equal and able to embrace cultural diversity and celebrate their identities and strengths.


There is a long waiting period (up to 20 years) that asylum seekers undertake from the day they arrive to the UK until they get granted their refugee status. During which they suffer from excruciating social isolation. They are prohibited from getting a paid work and they obviously won’t afford continuing their education and personal development. Many of them lose their sense of direction and get out of touch with their purpose, identities and strengths. They end up struggling with depression, damaged self-esteem and find integrating in the community a massive mountain to climb.

This creates a massive gap between refugees and asylum seekers and local people. Apprehension takes over and people feel dehumanized and alienated. Ignoring this issue makes the distance between ‘them’ and ‘us’ gets increasingly bigger and creates a dysfunctional community.

Saif Ali, founder and director of Embracing Refugees, has developed the Integr8 programme in collaboration with other professionals from the industry to help overcome this challenge by providing a two-day workshop where local people, refugees and asylum seekers meet, connect and learn through attending:


If you like to support our mission by offering volunteering opportunities for refugees and asylum seekers, participating in our workshops, offering your professional skills, advice, time or any other resources, please contact us. We will be happy to hear from you.

Check out how you too can play a significant part in supporting refugees and asylum seekers.



Join our Thriving Together weekend to learn about how to stay healthy and build resilience, establish cultural dialogues with asylum seekers, refugees and local people from different backgrounds. Learn More


Offering short/ long term projects where refugees, asylum seekers and local people can volunteer together to learn new skills and establish cultural bridges. Projects can be nature, art, well-being related or anything else that may contribute to the integration process


As a refugee, can I come to only one of your weekends, or can I attend several or all of them?

We’d love it if you’d like to attend as many as possible. The choice is completely yours to come to just one, or as few or many as you wish.

I’ve now received my papers and so now have a ‘leave to remain’. Can I continue to attend your events?

Great news, welcome fellow resident! Whilst our service is only for those awaiting a decision from the Home Office, we’d love it if you felt able to volunteer and help refugees still awaiting their decision. Apply to volunteer here.


We help refugees and asylum seekers to:

  • Be part of a wider community that welcomes them and treats them as equals
  • Establish cultural dialogues to learn about the British culture and embrace their own within safe spaces
  • Participate in short, medium or long term projects that helps them integrate in the British community and maintain a sense of purpose.
  • Learn how to manage stress, emotional and mental challenges
  • Expand their approach to life beyond the Home Office process

These positive experiences would be achieved through:

  • Linking with local projects that are willing to take on refugees and asylum seekers to volunteer over a short or long periods of time.
  • Offer personal development workshops that are facilitated by professionals from the well-being industry to help them learn about themselves and their place in the world
  • Facilitating sharing circles to help them express what is going on for them
  • Offer exercises and body work such as massage, yoga, aerobics and self-shiatsu
  • Create opportunities for social activities, including picnics or walks in nature where they can share an enriching time with local people
  • Use art, music, food, nature as a way to establish cultural dialogues and have a social and therapeutic experiences

Please keep checking the NEWS & EVENTS or our FACEBOOK page to know about our upcoming activities.

If you have any skills or time you can offer to help us achieve any of the above, or you have other ideas that can leverage on it, please CONTACT US!




SOUTH DEVON REFUGEE SUPPORT NETWORK (SDRSN) is a collaboration hub of the following several local organizations and initiatives formed to support refugees and asylum seekers in South Devon. We work in open collaboration with other initiatives in the area.

Beyond Borders Totnes & District
: BBT&D is a ‘living library’ of local human resources, facilitating collaborations for ambitious or low-key initiatives to support asylum seekers and refugees. Its core aim is to foster integration, cross-cultural collaboration and caring.Get Involved | Join the Listing | Contact Us: www.beyondborderstotnes.or.uk

DartingtonDartington Hall Trust: is a charity that uses its landed estate to support creative, resilient communities to make positive social change. For SDRSN it connects with others (groups, organisations and individuals to work together on a useful and effective response to the refugee crisis facing Europe. For more info: www.dartington.org/refugees

Embracing Refugees
: is non-profit community organisation, based in Totnes, that helps local people, asylum seekers and refugees in South Devon to build social bridges through participating in well-being events and activities where they can embrace their differences and celebrate their individuality as part of the integration process.
Get Involved | Contact Us: embracingrefugees.org

We are building close collaboration with the British Red Cross, Devon and Cornwall Refugee Support, Hazelwood House and Exeter’s Refugee Support Devon






Important guidelines and boundaries

This section will outline advice and guidelines for realistic, needed and careful refugee support – provided by the Red Cross, Refugee Action and other refugee support organisations with great experience of working with asylum seekers and refugees.

Terms | Facts | Careful Awareness

We know it’s hard to put yourself in the place of a person who has had to flee their country. Reasons like, war, ethic cleansing, political persecution, rape or torture are just some of the reasons why people are forced to leave their homes, their jobs, people they love, everything they know.

And in order to leave such dangerous situations they may entrust themselves (and their money) to people smugglers and very often have little say about their final destination.

A recent Home Office report concluded that there was absolutely no evidence to suggest that asylum seekers had a detailed knowledge of UK policies or welfare benefits. So it’s highly doubtful that they’re rubbing their hands together at the thought of potential income support cheques and six-monthly dental check-ups. Fear of being tortured, for instance, would be a bigger reason to leave.

The report concluded that the main reasons why some people seek asylum here are their countries’ historic links with good old colonial Britain, the presence of family and friends and the fact that English is a global language.

If you were that person, uprooting your entire life, wouldn’t you try and find the safest place to go to? Somewhere that you may think you might fit in more easily, where you wouldn’t be faced with the same set of problems. It’s not a crime to try and find things, it’s a basic human instinct for survival.



  • Flee their home
  • Arrive in another country whichever way they can
  • Make themselves known to the authorities
  • Submit an asylum application
  • Exercise their legal right to apply for sanctuary
  • Are not allowed to work/earn money, but are able to volunteer
  • An asylum-seeker in ordinary language is a person who has sought the protection available to refugees under the United Nations 1951 Refugee Convention. However, for some purposes in UK law (e.g. asylum support), it also includes a person who claims that his or her removal from the UK would place him or her at risk of torture or some other serious harm (whether or not he or she is a refugee)”. (Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association (ILPA) 2008)
  • Upon arriving in the UK, people seeking asylum are
    • Photographed
    • Fingerprinted (even if they are a little kid)
    • Security checked
    • Issued with ID cars
    • And maybe even electronically tagged
    • They must report at a regular intervals to police stations or immigration centres
  • They can be locked up at any point during their asylum application (including kids and pregnant ladies)


  • The internationally established definition of a refugee is someone who is at serious risk of harm in his or her home country and cannot rely upon the protection of his or her home State. Reasons for fleeing include race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership of a particular social group (e.g. depending on the circumstances in the individual’s home country – may include women, homosexuals.) See full text of 1951 Refugee Convention
  • A refugee, here in the UK, is defined as someone who:
    • Has proven to the authorities that they would face persecution back home
    • Has had their claim for asylum accepted by the government
    • Has now acquired confirmed ‘refugee status’ and can now stay here either long-term or indefinitely, living with the same citizen rights as everyone else in the UK (right to work etc.)


  • Has arrived in a new country
  • Has either not made themselves known to the authorities OR has stayed in the country longer than they were authorized to
  • Has no legal permission to be there
  • Is going to get big trouble when they’re found out


  • Has moved to another country to work
  • Often brings capacity to strengthen the workforce
  • Could be illegal or legally resident, depending on how they entered the country
  • Might have a legal work permit or may be working illegally


  • The majority of people coming here as asylum seekers and refugees are currently from the Middle East and Africa. The majority will have experienced difficult and dangerous times in getting to Europe and need time and support in adjusting to a different culture, language and environment.


  • In 2014 the UK received 31,400 asylum applications. This was less than, for example, Germany (166,800), Sweden (81,300), France (63,100) and Italy (56,300).
  • Just 41 percent of people applying for an initial decision in the UK were granted asylum and allowed to stay. Many are initially refused because it is difficult to provide the evidence needed to meet the strict criteria of a refugee and the application process (often in another language) is daunting & complex to get right first time round. Source: Home Office immigration statistics, October to December 2014
  • Many people refused on first application appeal the decision and reapply, next time more informed about the correct procedures to follow. They are meanwhile homeless and bereft of any support until the next application goes in.
  • The majority of asylum seekers who arrive to the UK are educated, skilled and qualified (they refuse to rely on any of the government’s benefit system). Research has shown clearly that the majority come, out of their need to flee, with hope and intent to gain civil status, work, be independent and contribute to UK society – with no aim of relying on the UK benefit system.
  • It is common for asylum seekers to wait years and years – 5, 10 even 20 years in extreme cases – until they get a final decision from the Home Office concerning their application. During that time, they are not allowed to work or earn money, and unless they have friends or family members who support them they often live under extremely difficult conditions, with sparse or at times no accommodation or any other resources. They are provided with assigned (not chosen) minimal accommodation (often provided via corporate landlords) – often live in extremely bleak conditions, granted just £35 a week to live on. If they try to earn money they risk immediate cancellation of their application.


  • When they arrive, the really unlucky ones are sent straight to detention centres or are refused any form of support by the Home Office.
  • The more fortunate ones are given government housing (they don’t get to choose where) and get moved about all over the country during the asylum process
  • Often they find themselves living with strangers in crowded, grubby accommodation in a part of town no-one else fancies. It’s not what anyone would really want to call home.
  • If eventually an asylum seeker proves their case and is given permission to stay here as a refugee, then they have to leave this temporary housing and either find and pay for their own housing, or queue up on the council housing waiting list just like UK citizens


  • People seeking asylum are usually not allowed to work in Britain until they are granted refugee status. But with thousands of refugee and asylum seekers being health professionals, engineers and teachers across the UK, it doesn’t mean they don’t want to.
  • Remember that although they may now be highly dependent on others, they have an identity outside of this. People who are asylum seekers may also be doctors, pharmacists, teachers, electricians, mechanics, IT specialists, farmers, shopkeepers, taxi drivers… and have lots of skills and ideas to contribute! Department of Work and Pensions research has found that there is in fact a higher proportion of qualifications and skills among asylum seekers and refugees than among UK population.
  • Because asylum seekers aren’t usually allowed to work they’re given basic financial support to live o A British single person aged 25 or over and on income support is entitled to get £65.45 a week. But if you’re a newly arrived asylum seeker of the same age in Britain you get about 45% less than that. You get £35.52 a week, which will probably be spent on life essentials like, say, food rather than blowing it all on a nice leather jacket. And remember, this could last for years and years.

Given that the majority of asylum seekers who arrive to the UK come from Africa and the Middle East, where cultural norms and traditions are often different from here, it is important to remember that:

  • Issues like sex, gender, alcohol, drugs & addictions can carry many cultural and religious connotations, which may involve strict views or attitudes and assumptions different from norms in UK culture
  • Physical touch can have different connotations or traditions: permission maybe needed when it comes to physical contact, including handshake when it comes to opposite genders.
  • Asylum seekers and refugees may carry experiences of loss, grief, violence, traumas that can be triggered if we insensitively address certain issues related to their asylum journey or their situation back at home
  • Safe/ Okay kinds of topics of conversations (some examples)
    • Interests/ Hobbies
    • Food
    • Sport
    • Work & background
    • Cultural differences
      • Traditions
      • Celebrations
      • The “good things” about their country
    • Sensitivity is needed around following topics
      • Family issues (loss, missing home may be hard)
      • Anything too personal
      • Alcohol & addictions
      • War, violence & abuse related topics
      • Their asylum journey
      • Cultural differences
        • Religion issues & religious sectors
        • Race
        • Gender & Sexuality

Most of us have little grasp of the devastating realities lived that have caused someone to leave everything familiar – and seek a new life far from home. So we need to try and not blunder out of out blindness, limited grasp of what experiences people carry in them. This can involve more listening, pausing, carefulness that we usually deeply in daily life!


  • It is always better not to ‘assume’ that it is okay to do or ask about something. Asking permission will give people a choice to answer or not
  • Be ready to listen and pick up clues, to draw back if you sense discomfort. Go carefully with questions, thinking twice about what the impact of your question might be before you speak
  • Err on the safe side, by being careful and attentive. Body language can communicate reticence – on both sides. Acknowledge mistakes, clumsiness and be ready to let go of topics to see if they are taken up again (rather than pursuing the issue just from your own interest).
  • Be ready to respect cut-offs.
  • Be prepared to open up your own vulnerabilities or complexities of life if issues arise. We are all human…


  • The majority of asylum seekers come from Africa and the Middle East. English language may not be their mother tongue.
  • It is better not to assume everyone can read and write. Some will be highly literate, others will not! Find out how much English is spoken and understood! People coming from African countries in particular, often are fluent in 3 or more languages. So if an interpreter is needed, there may be someone right there who can help!
  • Choosing simple terms and using clear pronunciation can create a more interesting conversation and saves you an unfortunate misunderstanding