Café Connect: Welcoming new arrivals from Hong Kong

FaithAction are very pleased to announce we have been awarded three contracts as part of the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities’ Hong Kong British National (Overseas) Welcome Programme from the Regional VCSE Grant Scheme. The programme will be run through partner organisations in three regions of England—London, West Midlands and Yorkshire and the Humber—using FaithAction’s Café Connect model.

What is Café Connect?

Café Connect will welcome Hong Kong BN(O) status holders and their dependents into the local area through conversational English language practise, opportunities to find out about local facilities and services, cultural orientation and time to get to know people from the local area.  It will be an enjoyable and social space for everyone involved with opportunities for mutual sharing of skills and knowledge and opportunities to make friends for the host community and new arrivals.

How does it work?

Café Connects are weekly activity sessions, lasting two hours, involving tea and coffee and a variety of activities.   

Hosted by a small team of trained volunteers, delivery will include ‘meet and greet’ style sessions with participatory storytelling, highlighting shared values, and encouraging participation and learning across cultures. Activities will include introductions to life in the UK; signposting and registrations for local services, schools and childcare, job agencies and employment schemes; opportunities for English-language learning; and, for people of faith, introductions/welcomes with local faith groups. 

Each café session will be supported by a session plan and materials, with a variety of activities that can take place on tables in the café session. Each hub will receive a kit with resources for core activities, including a Community Information Toolkit, language activities, crafts, and games.  As the volunteer team get established, they may choose to add in activities of their own celebrating the particular skills and interest of their team or beneficiaries.

Everyone is welcome. Café Connect aims to bring the whole community together, rather than being exclusively for Hong Kongers. We are, however, expecting to see a significant impact on new arrivals from Hong Kong in terms of well-being, connection, and practical aspects of transition into the UK.

Who is behind Café Connect?

Café Connect is a programme developed by Dr Anne Smith in partnership with new arrivals and established migrants as part of research into facilitating belonging. It is a sister programme to FaithAction’s Creative English, and will be utilising some of the methodology developed as part of the Creative English programme

Are you working with newly arrived Hong Kongers in London, the West Midlands or Yorkshire? Are you interested in finding out more about the programme? Are you working in another area of the country and want to let us know what you’re doing?

If, so please contact the team:

About Dr Anne Smith

Creative English Lead Trainer

Dr Anne Smith is the Lead Trainer and Founder of the Creative English programme. In this role, she writes session plans and materials, trains facilitators and supports those delivering Creative English. She is responsible for developments of the Creative English programme, including variations to support Health Professionals and Creative English: Family Learning.

About Andrew Welsby

Project Officer

Andrew is one of FaithAction’s Project Officers.

Andrew is leading on our Barking and Dagenham Faith Leaders Network, supporting local faith leaders delivering social action projects in their community. He also supports hubs on our Cafe Connect programme, helping new arrivals from Hong Kong.

Andrew has also been involved in project managing our Community Champions Programme, directly recruiting and working with our Community Champions. He was part of the Faith COVID Response Project, arranging focus groups and becoming the team’s go-to person on the places of worship guidance.