Sanctuary and sport are coming together in Halifax, where table tennis sessions for refugees and asylum-seekers are thriving.

The sessions are a collaboration between Halifax TTC and the St Augustine’s Centre, which is a specialist charity working with people seeking sanctuary in Calderdale, West Yorkshire.

Photos by Jake Clarke.

They were launched at Halifax Table Tennis Centre by Jake Clarke, who is the Communications Co-ordinator at the St Augustine’s, as well as a local league player of 10 years.

Halifax TTC coaches Jackie Wood and David Lewis have led the programme, which started in September. A total of 14 sessions have been held and have welcomed 32 various St Augustine’s Centre members.

Jake said: “Our collaboration with Jackie Wood and David Lewis for coaching and support has been instrumental in the success of these sessions. The number of centre members attending has steadily increased.

“Our sessions attract individuals of various ages, genders, abilities, nationalities, ethnicities, and religions, creating a hub of diversity. Our centre members find solace and joy in the sessions.

“They showcase the power of table tennis, the welcoming Halifax Table Tennis community, and the compassion embedded within the broader table tennis world.”

The sessions include both group and one-to-one exercises to help enhance skills and techniques, as well as matchplay and of course the social aspect of creating new friendships.

One of the regular participants, Yashar, said: “I joined the group because it’s my favourite thing to do, and it has a huge positive impact on my body, reflex speed and general health.

“The friendships and bonds in the sessions are important. Competitions and matches are also fascinating and make relationships even better.

“I feel very energetic and refreshed after the sessions, and I’m always glad I decided to go.”

Jake added: “I can confidently say that this partnership has provided a haven for people seeking sanctuary and continues to enrich the local Halifax table tennis community.

“Yashar and I are both excited for the future, anticipating countless more joyful table tennis sessions ahead.

“We’re grateful to Halifax TTC, Alan Dickinson, Sam Clayton, all staff and members for welcoming us with compassion and without prejudice.”