Free college gym sessions in Rugby help asylum seekers keep fit and healthy

Refugees from Ukraine, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Iran are being provided with a safe space in Rugby.

Rugby College.
Rugby College.

Rugby College has partnered with Community Welcome to provide free access to its gym and fitness facilities to improve asylum seekers’ physical and mental health.

A new group of young men have started to use the gym, with the previous group having moved onto the next stage of the asylum process.

The gym sessions are part of a wider sports project for asylum seekers in Rugby which has been running for around three months, supported by a grant from Warwickshire County Council – which includes a weekly warm up session with a PT followed by football skills and a match with a professional coach.

On arriving in Rugby, asylum seekers are assigned a hotel and are unable to work or access education until their visas come through. The gym and sport initiative provides one of the rare opportunities for them to get out of their hotel rooms.

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Community Welcome has also supported the arrivals with clothing, books, English lessons and access to Covid-19 vaccinations.

Katherine Bolton, from Community Welcome, said: “We had been in touch with gyms across the Rugby borough and had been struggling to find anywhere to offer free access to their facilities, and that is when Rugby College stepped forward.

“The guys are cooped up in a hotel for months on end, which can be incredibly difficult from a mental and physical health perspective. They don’t get enough money from the government to fund a gym membership, so we are incredibly grateful for the support WCG has given us.

“It’s all about fostering healthy bodies and healthy minds. Until they move onto the next stage of the asylum process, they can’t access work and it’s only really volunteering opportunities available to them. The chance to get out, exercise and play sport is invaluable.”

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She said the partnership with Rugby College has been really successful and the feedback has been positive.

Katherine added: “We’re looking for support in all areas with refugees in Rugby, be that donations in kind or monetary donations. The community in the town has been hugely supportive to date, but we are always looking for further support.”

Sarah Butterfield, Director of Adult Learning & Commercial Development at WCG, said: “The partnership has been going for a few months now and has been a great success.

“We are offering four one-hour sessions a week. Those that are using the gym have been very appreciative and you can tell they are enjoying it.

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“The college will continue to work with Community Welcome to support the people they are working with when they are here in Rugby.”