Sanctuary in the garden


Story and photos by Victor Mujakachi.

ASSIST Sheffield provides accommodation, information and support to people who are seeking sanctuary and have been refused asylum. Without legal status, not being allowed to work, or access any form of statutory support, people become homeless and destitute in our city.

The eight ASSIST houses in Pitsmoor, Firvale and Firth Park have four bedrooms, each room housing an asylum seeker. The Messenger visited some of the residents in these houses and spoke to a few who have become keen gardeners.

Yousif came to the UK in 2006. He says:

“I like gardening because I grew up on a farm in my village of Birwan where we grew crops and kept farm animals.”

Yousif grows vegetables in the back garden. It is no wonder that he feels very proud of his healthy crop of tomatoes, beans and red cabbages.

Nawzad came to the UK in 2018 and is still waiting for his case to be determined by The Home Office. Nawzad is a trained and qualified nurse but left his country of birth due to the volatile political situation there.

“I could work in the NHS if I were allowed to work. In the meantime I’m thankful for what ASSIST does to help me in giving me a place to live. This house has a garden and gardening gives me something to do.”

Nawzad gives a helping hand to an elderly neighbour by weeding her garden.

George came to the UK in 2003 and is still waiting for his asylum case to be reassessed.

“I grew up on a cocoa farm in Ghana, I like farming and gardening. It stops me from thinking about my problems.”

George has a thriving crop of runner beans, tomatoes and red cabbages.

“I receive the plants and gardening tools from ASSIST volunteers”

The three residents all have farming backgrounds and find gardening helps them to connect with nature, gives them purpose and is beneficial to them in terms of their mental health and well being. or @ASSISTSheffield on social media.