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13 November 2014

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You are in: Tyne > Comic Relief > How your money helps

People playing pool at the Acane centre in Byker

Acane was set up in 2001

How your money helps

Funding from Comic Relief has helped an organisation working to bring together the diverse communities living in Byker.

Settling into life in a new town can be difficult enough so imagine what it must be like trying to find your feet in a new country, having been forced to flee your own.

"It's not easy," says Gaby Kitoko, who arrived in Newcastle from the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2000 as an asylum seeker.

Poster about Acane, African Community Advice North East

The centre is at Raby Cross, Byker

"First of all you need connections, you need to have people you can turn to for advice and to seek information. So it was not easy in the beginning."

Konomo Fogbia, also from the Congo, arrived in 1999 and says he struggled at first too.

"Life in Newcastle wasn't really so good then. People didn't know about asylum or refugees, like when you walked on the streets sometimes people shouted at you.

"Some people moved [on] but some of us decided to stay here and to say we need to do something, we need to raise our problems, we need to stand [up] for ourselves."

No boundaries

The result was African Community Advice North East, or Acane, which was set up in Byker in 2001 to help build bridges between African asylum seekers and refugees - of which there are more than 300 in the area - and the local community.

"We've got now mixed communities. Both of them are friends and they relate to each other. They go to the same school and they come here to play."

Konomo Fogbia

The organisation runs a wide range of activities to bring people together at their centre on Raby Cross, including creative projects with young people and social events and celebrations.

Gaby and Konomo both now work for the organisation and Konomo says it has changed a lot both for him personally and for the area.

"Now I'm a free man and I can walk on the streets without being scared that someone's going to shout or maybe throw a stone on me.

"We've got now mixed communities. Both of them are friends and they relate to each other. They go to the same school and they come here to play, to socialise.

"The centre is for everyone, there is no boundary."

Gaby agrees: "[The resistance] has gone. People know who we are [now] and we try to involve and interact with them so now they know we're not bad.

"They're not saying to people we're just here to get benefit or to get their jobs."

Red Nose Day: Do something funny for money

Red Nose Day 2009 is 13 March

Funding

Acane was given £100,000 over three years by Comic Relief to support its work and Gaby says the funding was essential.

"It means a lot. You cannot plan anything without money, [without] funding in this time.

"Comic Relief have responded positively to try to encourage this centre to play the role of bringing communities together.

"The centre is for the community and not just the African community."

last updated: 11/03/2009 at 10:08
created: 11/03/2009

You are in: Tyne > Comic Relief > How your money helps



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