In November 2021, Afghan refugees recently resettled in Bristol were given a safe space to play cricket at Gloucestershire’s Seat Unique Stadium. Around 20 Afghans, who are among 50 families to have recently fled from the war-torn country and been re-homed in Bristol, attended weekly and dedicated community cricket sessions at The Shire’s home stadium since the end of October.
The sessions, which were delivered by Gloucestershire Cricket Board (GCB) and ran until Christmas, not only gave the participants a chance to play the game they love, but also provide the Afghans with an opportunity to integrate into society and socialise among like-minded people. The refugees have made Bristol their home having been welcomed into the UK under Bristol City Council’s Resettlement Program and together, Gloucestershire Cricket and the GCB are aiming to help the families feel like a valued part of community life in the city.
Bristol-based charity, Bridges for Communities, who work with Bristol City Council on the refugee programme, partnered with the Club and the GCB to ensure the displaced Afghans are given the best possible chance to settle in their new surroundings. Cricket is the most popular sport in Afghanistan and while the opportunity to play once-a-week at Gloucestershire Cricket gives the Afghans a fun activity to look forward to and enjoy, it also provides the families with structure and stability in what can be an uncertain and scary time for them.
Karen Green at Bridges for Communities, said: “We’re extremely grateful to Gloucestershire Cricket for putting on free cricket sessions for Afghan refugees.
“For people who never expected to become refugees, who have had their lives turned upside down in the last couple of months and who still face significant uncertainties over their future, outlets like this can be invaluable because they allow people to take a break from the challenges they are facing so they can do something fun and enjoyable. We’re looking forward to continuing our partnership to help facilitate further opportunities for others who are rebuilding their lives in the city.”
Those who attended the weekly cricket sessions not only got the chance to play in a top-class facility, but were also treated to a selection of delicious foods. Thanks to support from three of the Club’s local businesses, Gloucestershire was able to offer the Afghan cricket-lovers with a buffet after each session.
Cheltenham Road business, Koocha Mezze, kindly donated a range of mezze dishes, salads and breads, while the nearby Gloucester Road Fruiterers donated a large box of fruit and their close neighbours, Joe’s Bakery, kindly donated a selection of cakes and pastries. All three businesses committed to supporting the Afghan community sessions on a weekly basis.
Noda Marvani, CEO of Koocha Mezze, said: “As an independent business, we are very much part of the local community and we are happy to be supporting both the cricket club and those in need.”
Raza Rehman, General Manager of Gloucester Road Fruiters, added: “Gloucester Road is within a stones throw away from Gloucestershire Cricket; independent businesses on the road have a huge role in not only serving the community with daily essentials but also working together to help our community in all aspects of life.”
Jenny Rogers, Co-owner at Joes Bakery, said: “A big thank you to Gloucestershire Cricket for approaching Joe’s Bakery and giving us the opportunity to help expand our community roots.
“It’s great to see local businesses come together and be able to offer help when needed.”