Handsworth Youth Outreach: The Refuge

Handsworth Youth Outreach: The Refuge

Kennedy Conger, a former NEXT intern, set out to experience her internship in Birmingham this past summer. While there, she also worked to collect stories, photos and videos to provide to the GP communication and mobilization teams. She spent time learning from the local Wesleyan church, serving at food banks and working with the youth at the Refuge. To learn more about what the Refuge is providing the community of Handsworth, check out Kennedy’s article below.

New Life Wesleyan Church hosts a youth club every Friday night called the Refuge. Aimed at serving kids aged 11-18, the Refuge is for any kid wanting a safe space to socialize in Handsworth, Birmingham.

This ministry was founded in December 2021 by members of New Life church. Starting with just seven or eight kids, the Refuge now sees about fifty kids every Friday.

“We first decided that we were going to have a Refuge simply because we had lots of young people in our area who needed a safe space to be had,” Sandra Jones, leader of the Refuge, said. “And we began to gather young people together from a few young people who used to come to us before we started the Refuge, and they actually chose the name the Refuge because it was just the ‘youth group’ before.”

According to the University of Birmingham, two-thirds of the resident population in Handsworth are Muslim, followed by Christian and Sikh. Open to kids of all nationalities and religions, the Refuge upholds Christian values.

“When young people come to the Refuge, they know that … the whole Refuge is based on a Christian ethos and Christian values and principles,” Sandra said. “And they will often make a joke, you know, ‘this is part of the church because we’re in the church hall,’ so they absolutely get it that we come from a background of Christianity and our faith is important to us.”

All the volunteers are Christian, each serving in different roles to assist the young people.

“I wasn’t involved from the start when it first came about; I wasn’t one of the original workers,” Sam, Refuge volunteer, said. “But as time went on, I saw that there was a need for some workers, and I had free time on Friday. So I said I would come along and I’ve primarily been in the kitchen doing the cooking and everything for the young people, but it’s been an awesome year, starting to work for the Refuge.”

The Refuge values building relationships with the youth who come in every week, so they feel like they consistently have a safe space to converse.

Demaris, a Refuge volunteer, said she values learning more about youth culture because it has changed so much since she was young. She said she feels the need to reeducate herself on what it’s like being young today, by talking to young people about what matters most to them.

While this youth outreach ministry has seen many successes, they are still in need of resources that will further the work they are trying to establish in the community.

“We definitely want folks who will pray for the young people who come,” Sandra said. “We’re in Handsworth, and you know, it hasn’t got the best reputation for keeping young people safe. So please, please, please pray for them and pray for their families.”

Refuge leaders also shared that prayers for additional finances, building resources and male volunteers would be much appreciated.

To learn more about the Refuge or NEXT, email us at info@gponline.org or check out gponline.org/NEXT!