Published: Tuesday, 16th July 2019

Oldham, Manchester and Bolton Library Services have been awarded funding to create nine ‘Libraries of Sanctuary’.

The £47,000, awarded from the Control Migration Fund (CMF) – the Home Office Funding – earlier this year, will be used to build better community relations and foster good community relations, which will benefit the whole town.

Free courses, classes and activities will be developed, including English conversation classes and cultural activities. Monthly community activities will also be on offer alongside a wealth of volunteering opportunities to increase volunteering at libraries and in their local area.

Some of the courses that have already been offered at libraries include dual language story walks, zine making workshops and a ‘Jo Cox Get Together’ event.

This programme of activities will help improve community cohesion, tackle the key challenges of loneliness and foster better community relations within Oldham.

The fund will help build the confidence, skills and resilience of communities in Oldham and provide opportunities for people from different communities or backgrounds to come together, chat and build relationships with one another.

The Libraries of Sanctuary will follow the principles of ‘The City of Sanctuary’ movement, which aims to develop a culture that’s welcoming – a place that wherever sanctuary seekers go they can find places of safety.  

In addition to this, the movement aims to promote the voices and celebrate the contributions of people seeking sanctuary across every sector of society, increase understanding of why people seek sanctuary and the difficulties they experience whilst living in the UK and finally express the collective voice of the network advocating for, and alongside, sanctuary seekers.

Oldham, Chadderton and Northmoor Libraries will receive Oldham’s part of the funding as they were identified as areas that would have the most positive impact.

A toolkit will be developed providing advice on how other libraries in Greater Manchester can become ‘Libraries of Sanctuaries’ to help support refugees and asylum seekers.

Leader of Oldham Council, Councillor Sean Fielding, said:

“Oldham is a diverse town with many different communities, and we have a proud history of welcoming migrants, refugees and alyssum seekers from different countries. 

“We hope that other libraries across Greater Manchester and the UK will recognise that projects like these are vital to enabling people to be accepted in and contribute to their town.

“There’s always something to do in Oldham, whether that’s volunteering or just attending the many local events in the area. This project will hopefully enable people to get involved with their community and feel like they’re part of something bigger.”

Libraries can offer access to a wide range of services and resources such as health, wellbeing, financial and housing advice in a welcoming and accessible environment and sign-post people to other support services.

In addition to accessing services and opportunities for positive social interaction Oldham Libraries can offer the invaluable resource of free internet access to reach and maintain contact with family, friends and support services, help with getting online and resources in community languages.

To find out more about what the three libraries have on offer, please contact Victoria Varley (Victoria.varley@oldham.gov.uk)

Residents can find out what’s on at their local library by signing up to their monthly ‘Love Libraries’ email. To sign up, just visit: www.oldham.gov.uk/librarie

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