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The heartwarming charity helping refugees make Bury a home

Eagles Wing, a volunteer-driven mutual support group in Bury, offers a warm welcome and vital assistance to asylum seekers
Eagles Wing

In a world where solidarity and community are increasingly sparing, Eagles Wing is creating a safe space full of hope and support for asylum seekers and refugees in Bury.

Their mission is to welcome everyone to the town, no matter what their background or where they are from.

Founded in 2005, this mutual support group has tirelessly worked to ensure that no newcomer feels isolated or alone, offering a warm Bury welcome and essential assistance to those from all corners of the globe.

As any good friend would!

Eagles Wing

“We started as a response to the Kosovo war,” recalls Sue Arnall, a volunteer and founding member.

“Bury Council accepted refugees from Kosovo, housing them together in the Geoffrey Kershaw Centre.

“At the time, I worked at the Family Centre, run by NCH, and we organised English classes and Parental support for local families at the Mosses Centre.”

Refugees were invited to attend the sessions, along with other local people who needed these things.

However, things took an unfortunate turn in 2005 when the family centre closed.

Members were keen to carry on, such was the amazing community vibe, so the group re-organised itself as a ‘mutual support group’ called Eagles Wing.

The name comes after the eagle on the Kosovan flag.

Eagle’s Wing’s incredible volunteers

The Eagles Wing has no office or paid staff. They are all volunteers.

Despite this, the group has been going strong since 2005,to welcome and support newcomers to Bury.

Volunteers plan and organise social activities each week to which lonely refugees, babies and small children are welcome to come along with their parents.

They also organise an English class in partnership with Bury College, which has been of huge importance to newcomers to Bury, who find it hard to find the time for lessons if they also have small children.

The Parents Support group has carried on so that friendship and help can be shared with members whatever their language or nationality.

Members help each other with problems, and celebrate successes together.

Three mornings a week, Eagles Wing transforms into a haven where individuals can openly share their problems, gain mutual support, and revel in the sight of their children playing joyfully.

It’s a wholesome community where events and parties are organised, building friendships and creating lasting memories.

Generosity abounds at Eagles Wing, with kind-hearted friends regularly dropping by the support groups to donate clothing, toys, books, and household items.

Every Thursday, a fresh food delivery arrives from the supermarket, providing crucial assistance to members facing severe financial challenges.

In partnership with the British Red Cross and the Manchester Migrant Destitution Fund, Eagles Wing extends a lifeline to those with no income, offering small but regular financial support.

This collaboration ensures that even the most vulnerable have a chance to regain their footing and thrive.

A community of support

Eagles Wing operates without an office or paid staff, relying solely on the dedication of its volunteers and the friendship of members with each other.

Many members offer as volunteers when times are easier for them, giving them a lot of self-respect and confidence and the chance to share their experiences to support those still in crisis.

Weekly activities at the United Reformed Church

Eagles Wing’s activities are primarily held at the United Reformed Church in Bury, chosen not for religious reasons but for its central location, making it easily accessible to everyone.

Despite a recent flood causing temporary relocations, the group remains active and committed to its mission.

Mondays: Originally, Eagles Wing hosted an English class at the church, particularly targeted at women with small babies and toddlers, but this has temporarily moved to Bury College because of the Church flood.

Instead, they now hold social meetings on Mondays where members and their small children gather for coffee, biscuits, and conversation.

Volunteers are on hand to assist with any problems, and a quiet room is available for more serious issues.

One of the big problems new residents face is problems when trying to renew their residence cards.

“Their ID cards need to be renewed periodically, and if that doesn’t happen, their Universal Credit may be stopped, even though they are entitled to it,” Sue said.
“So, recently quite a few people have come to us because they had issues with their ID cards”

Tuesdays: An art and sewing group (called Stitches and Stories) where members get together, and share their talents with friends where there is no pressure to do anything other than relax. 

“They make wonderful wall hangings, patchwork quilts, and even baskets,” Sue added.

“They have exhibited their work in Bury Art Gallery recently to much admiration, It’s a really lovely group”

Thursdays: Originally another English class, the Thursday English for Beginners group have also temporarily moved to Bury College. 

The classes, run by the talented and enthusiastic teachers Fiona and Julie, do so much to help people learn the language.

Cartwheel Arts, a social group from Heywood, has offered exciting Arts and Crafts sessions to members on Thursdays in place of the English Class and encouraged children to join in as well.

“Thursday mornings are now dedicated to various art activities,” Sue explained.

“Recently, we’ve been making clay plates and other creative projects.”

On any of the three support group mornings, Sue as Treasurer, is able to help those in financial difficulties using Eagles Wing “ Friends of Solidarity “ fund, with small amounts to help in emergencies, or applying to the Bury Support Fund, or serious situations offering regular money for destitute people from the Red Cross or Migrant Destitution Fund.

This is crucial as many other groups are not able to offer money but can offer tremendous support by food, clothing and baby banks.

Bridging cultures and building futures

The reach of Eagles Wing extends beyond just providing immediate support.

It’s about creating lasting bonds and helping people build new lives.

Eagles Wing’s motto is  “Come as Strangers, stay as Friends”

Sue shares another poignant story from the start of Eagles Wing,  A refugee family who fled their home in Iran with their 15-year-old son.

“I was at a meeting when they heard me publicly welcome refugees to Bury, they said it was the first time anyone had said that to them.

“They had a daughter still in Iran, and it took a year to enable her to escape alone to join them. It was a very difficult time for her, and very scary, but also stressful for her twin brother and parents.

“Despite having no experience of speaking English, she excelled in her studies at GCSE and is now a consultant doctor, while her twin brother is also a doctor.

“They wouldn’t have achieved this without the chance Derby School gave them.”

The family moved to London but are still close friends with their supporters in Bury.

These personal connections are at the heart of Eagles Wing’s success.

“People realise refugees are lovely and make great friends when given a chance,” Sue says.

Recognition and resilience

Eagles Wing’s efforts have not gone unnoticed.

They received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service and the Forever Manchester Birthday Award for ‘Making a Difference and Transforming Lives’.

In each celebration volunteers chose who should go to receive the award and Linda, Zeinab and Yaz had a wonderful experience, attending a garden party at Buckingham Palace.

They travelled on public transport in their wonderful finery, dazzling all they met en route, who thought they were going to a wedding!

Speaking about the experience, the pair said: “It’s a great privilege to represent the friendship group that is Eagles Wing!”

Looking ahead

As Eagles Wing continues its mission, Sue remains realistic about the future.

“We don’t want to expand. We rely on volunteers and small grants. Growing would require a full-time member of staff, which we don’t have the infrastructure for. We keep things small and focused, and it works for us.”

Sue believes that more localised, small-scale efforts like Eagles Wing are highly effective.

“We all know each other on a first-name basis, and it’s very personal. There’s no professional casework, just friends helping friends. This model is cheap, friendly, and low-key. It could be replicated in any community centre.”

How to donate to Eagles Wing

For those inspired by Eagles Wing’s work, donations are always welcome.

Although they don’t have a website, regular donations can be made to their bank account, Friends of Solidarity.

One-off donations can come directly to the Eagles Wing Bank Account.

You can get access to the bank details by clicking here

These donations enable Eagles Wing to provide emergency assistance to those in need.

As Sue says: “If people give refugees a chance, they realise they are lovely people and make great friends. They contribute an immense amount to society, despite what you will read in the press.

“Most of what’s written is simply not true.

“We have all benefited from the past 19 years of welcoming strangers, and making friends!”

You can find out more about Eagles Wing by clicking here

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