Refugees and Asylum Seekers Project

Refugees and Asylum Seekers Project

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there were 126,720 refugees, 45,244 pending asylum cases and 125 stateless persons in the UK at the end of 2018. That is approximately one quarter of a percent (0.26%) of the UK’s total population.

However, for the individuals in such situations, coming to the UK can be fraught with challenges. Whilst there is a lot of help and support available for them, from statutory bodies, voluntary organisations, community groups and so on, there is also a huge lack of consistency in support across the UK.

To help address this challenge, SIETAR UK launched a new project in 2018, where a training programme was designed to help enhance the intercultural understanding and competencies of those working with and supporting refugees and asylum seekers, in whatever capacity or organisation, so that their needs may be more effectively met.

Achievements to Date:

  • Creation of an initial volunteer Community Development committee who helped create and deliver the project structure
  • Successful one day training delivery to volunteers who support refugees and asylum seekers from Birmingham and Coventry
  • Completion of a Training Handbook for Volunteers and Refugees. Vol. 1 (funded by the Faculty of Social Sciences Research Development Fund 2018, University of Warwick) – available on our homepage at

We are now looking to develop and expand this project, and so are looking for partners to help us make this happen.

Goals for 2020:

  • Recruiting new members for the Community Development committee
  • Revising and improving the created one day workshop materials on the basis of feedback from multiple volunteer organisations as well as the committee’s expertise
  • Creating a free online platform for volunteers to connect and engage in weekly intercultural competence exercises
  • Running free training sessions for charity partners and volunteers
  • Revising and improving the free Training Handbook for Volunteers and Refugees, which will become a free Exercise Book for Volunteers and Refugees (Vol. 1)

Become a Sponsor or Charity Partner:
We are looking for sponsors and volunteer organisations who would like to enable us to deliver a free workshop in specific areas in the UK. Specifically, we aim to cover the travel and some work expenses for our intercultural trainers who will deliver the session as well as require a free of charge facility where the training can take place. If you are interested, please contact Felicia Schwartz (Director of Corporate Relations) at

Join the Community Development Committee:
SIETAR UK is also still looking for anyone to help us move the project forward. If you are interested in volunteering some of your time, experience and enthusiasm into being involved with this exciting work, please contact our Director of Community Development Dr Katharina Lefringhausen:


Meet the Community Development Committee:

Dr Katharina Lefringhausen (Community Development Director) is an Assistant Professor at the University of Warwick, Applied Linguistics. She has profound knowledge in the acculturation literature and how to assess training methods and outcomes in a scientifically rigorous way. She joined the Community Development Committee in 2018, designed and delivered intercultural awareness training for volunteers, co-authored the Training Handbook for Volunteers and Refugees and examined the training impacts on volunteers as part of a funded research pilot via the University of Warwick. Now, Katharina is supporting the revision of the training materials, will support the delivery of any training sessions as well as examine the delivery strategy and training outcomes.   

Gabriela Weglowska is an experienced intercultural trainer, solution designer and material developer. Since 2017 she’s been serving as Communications Director at SIETAR UK. She also works as Intercultural Consultant at a training company in London. In 2018, Gabriela joined the Community Development Committee to design and deliver intercultural awareness training for volunteers who work with refugees in West Midlands, and co-authored the Training Handbook for Volunteers and Refugees. She’s now helping to update the materials and offer more training to refugee-support organisations.

Janice Prentice is a project manager and consultant with a strong interest in intercultural communication and the wider diversity and inclusion agenda. She brings commitment to better outcomes for refugees and volunteers supporting them combined with experience of working with an employment and enterprise charity which supports refugees and managing consultancy projects with government organisations, especially those which focus on equality diversity and inclusion.

John Twitchin is Director of the Centre for Intercultural Development. Brought up in a refugee centre, John had a long career as senior producer in BBC TV Continuing Education Dept., in charge of intercultural output. He has produced a range of training documentary films on the awareness and skills of intercultural communication – first broadcast by BBC. John can contribute to making of training video; to developing e-learning methods; to running training workshops on social inclusion for managers and front-line staff of public services and voluntary agencies.

Polly Collingridge is a certified intercultural trainer (having completed The Interchange Institute’s ‘Crossing Cultures with Competence’ program) and in 2018 obtained an MSc in Cross-Cultural Psychology from Brunel University. She currently works part-time for Parental Choice, an agency focused on enhancing employee wellbeing where she assists relocating families with various aspects of their orientation to a new country. Polly has also co-written an intercultural communication guide for the London based charity Refugees at Home.

Libby Small is an Intercultural Communication MA graduate and an English language teacher. She currently works for an arts university assisting international students with their English and academic skills and delivering cultural awareness sessions to staff. During her MA she developed a keen interest in the migrant and refugee experience and has also worked and volunteered for refugee charities. Recently, she worked for a London-based charity coordinating community projects and free legal advice sessions as well as recruiting volunteers.

Marta Monedero-Afonso, originally from Spain, is currently finishing her MA in Intercultural Communication and Education (Durham University) whilst already holding a MA (Hons) in International Relations and Sociology (University of Aberdeen). Before embarking on her studies, she completed a Civil Service programme as a communication manager and an intercultural project assistant in the association Concordia in Lyon (France). Her role included drafting, organisation and facilitation of one international workcamp and one Erasmus + Youth Exchange about cultural diversity, stereotypes and discrimination. She now looks forward to contribute to the SIETAR refugee project.

Janina Neumann is a bilingual graphic designer, intercultural management trainer, and business owner of Janina Neumann Design. JND is a bilingual design company, helping clients create a social impact in the UK and abroad. Working with charities, councils and think tanks, Janina helps clients communicate their message equally effectively across different languages and cultures. Janina speaks English and German fluently and has a keen interest in learning new languages, including French and Farsi. She looks forward to being a part of the SIETAR refugee project team.