By Becky, Youth Participation Worker

Since 2008, GMIAU has been running a youth group for unaccompanied children seeking asylum – the All4One group. In February 2022 we re-launched the group with support from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. All4One ran during pre-Covid times on a monthly basis, however when restrictions lifted, it was important to us to open a safe place for young people in the asylum system to connect with one another, seek support and enjoy themselves on a weekly basis. I started working with GMIAU as a Youth Participation Worker. Nearly 12 months later, and we have seen friendships forming, reunions for some, new skills learnt and a noticeable increase in confidence amongst the group.

Every Wednesday the All4One group meets from 4.30pm to 8pm, practising English, taking part in a range of activities, and we always finish by enjoying a shared meal. Watching the young people being so enthused by the discussions and activities that we have, and being able to witness the youth group being a comfortable place for our young people to be themselves and feel accepted has been incredible. The young people are very keen to learn, especially as they may still be waiting for a place at college. Our dedicated volunteer, Marian, helps the young people with ESOL at the start of every session, and this aspect of the group is always commented on positively by group members. As they become more confident in English, young people often help to translate for their friends.

We have now had 81 individuals attend at least one of our events, whether it be the weekly youth group, or extra activities that we have run. Many of our young people who attend once come back and attend the group again. One young person came to his first session in February, and has since been to every group session apart from two! It is lovely to see the young people coming back, growing in confidence and then welcoming new members to the group themselves.

“I have done 1 year with the All4One Youth Group. I learnt a lot with them and they helped me a lot in oral and practical ways. When I was with them I felt a lot better. We can learn English and advise, after we eat and there are games. I very much appreciate you treating us in a very respected way. Thank you for your support.” – A young person who is a member of the All4One Youth Group.

Members of the All4One group at the Banksy exhibition in Media City
Group members at the Banksy exhibition

When re-creating All4One, youth leadership was at the forefront of our purposes for the group. We wanted to ensure that the young people attending our sessions had the opportunity to have their voices heard. After initially speaking to the group about changes that they would like to see happen back in March, we established that delays to accessing education were very important to our young people, who were waiting months for college places. We have carried out many activities and discussions surrounding this topic, as well as on delays in all aspects of the asylum system – whether that be delays in getting a solicitor, delays in receiving a decision, or waiting for an age assessment to be carried out.  Working together, we plan to document and share the young people’s feelings about delays and use our experience to bring about change.

The group members have also been sharing their insights in a consultation with the Children’s Society and in feeding back to GMIAU on how we can best support them. They completed a three-week leadership course with Access Sports. Maria, our Service Manager who helps run the group, says “the leadership through sports session were really popular with the group. The sessions encouraged team work and leadership alongside having a lot of fun through imaginative games. We’d hope to ask Access Sports back to the session again soon.” Since these sessions, young people have come forward, wanting to play their own games and have been very happy to lead these games in the session.

In addition to the activities that we have done relating to youth leadership and empowerment, we have also been on many fun trips. Watching the Manchester Women’s Derby was a highlight for 10 of our young people. Despite the cold weather, it was amazing to sit right behind the goal where two goals were scored! We also had trips to The Banksy Museum in MediaCity, kindly arranged for us by The Powerhouse. Moss Side carnival was another great community event that we attended, as well as a BMX’ing experience with Access Sport. We also managed to form an All4One football team for the Refugee World Cup event. Football is a common interest amongst our youth group, so being able to play at the tournament was amazing for both the young people playing, and for the members of staff watching! And this January we were able to take a group of 8 young people to the Lion King in theatre with tickets discounted by the Powerhouse.

Throughout the year, we have been lucky enough to have been gifted items from external organisations. We would like to say a special thank you to the Powerhouse who have not only provided us with tickets for events, but also gifted us Manchester City Football Club clothes for our young people. Cash For Kids under Mission Christmas have also kindly donated lots of Christmas gifts for our young people. These additional items really mean a lot to our young people, so we are always extremely grateful.

The All4One calendar for 2023 is already looking exciting, with more campaigning work on delays, talks from professionals who work with young people, a visit from Councillor Garry Bridges, Manchester City Council’s lead on children and young people, and much more. We look forward to the group continuing to expand and develop this year. If you have any ideas for sessions that you can help us organise for the group please get in touch with