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Sanctuary Social and Family Film Club events were a monthly activity on Saturday afternoons running from June 2019 to March 2020. These events were inspired by the Libraries of Sanctuary programme to offer an especially warm welcome and hospitality to refugees, asylum seekers, migrants and people new to the Harpurhey and North Manchester communities in a safe, neutral and local library space. Guided by experience and advice from our partners at Manchester City of Sanctuary who indicated that the key ingredients were food (for those on tight budgets), support and information, and activities to promote good mental health and wellbeing, we offered free activities for children, families and adults including games, crafts, mindfulness and exercise activities, as well as traditional hospitality in the form of snacks and refreshments. We also offered additional support with IT help, library membership and information services. We also showed family friendly films to the children and adults which were thematically linked to our programme dealing with universal themes of compassion and tolerance and friendship in an accessible way.
We were joined by volunteers, some of whom were also migrants or asylum seekers, who lent their language skills and empathy into helping all families enjoy the events and access the activities.
Feedback and comments from families was very positive – many people were surprised by the high quality of the activities and the welcome they received.
Others agreed how important it was to feel welcomed by the community into which migrants and refugees might find themselves.
Many parents commented how great it was to find free activities for families accessible in their local communities.
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