During Refugee Week, we launched a new feature, to promote the work of Refugee Community Organisations within Oxfordshire. We interviewed members of these groups and asked them what the theme for Refugee Week this year, Healing, means to them. This week, we hear from The Oxford North Africa Community (ONAC).

ONAC was established in June 2020 with the objective of serving the North African Community, and does this by focussing on cultural, educational and social aspects within the community.

In doing so, ONAC’s programme address many of the issues and problems the community is currently facing. A grassroots organisation, ONAC has five committees – Education, Social, Financial, Media and Communication, and External Relations – which address different needs. Each committee is run by volunteers from within the North African community.

Asylum Welcome has been instrumental in supporting ONAC’s activities, providing financial support, legal help and, more importantly, general advice on how to organise activities and support members of the community in need.

Perhaps the best example of how ONAC is already helping members of the community is Al-Amal Oxford Arabic School, which was established in October 2021,

Many parents within the North African Community in Oxford want to teach their children the Arabic language from an early age, and because this need was not met in the UK schooling system ONAC saw the need to address this issue and did so. Al-Amal Oxford Arabic School runs Sunday Arabic classes for children aged five to fifteen.

Mr. Kamel Derradja is a member of the North Africa community with two sons. He worked tirelessly to help establish the school, and says of the time before Al-Amal was operating, “I felt there was something missing in that my two boys would miss out a lot if they are engaged in learning the language without having friends with whom they need to compete, to get to know and socialize with.”

Al-Amal has also established a lending library so pupils can choose books, Arabic and English, to take home and read. The school also hopes to set up art, chess and Scrabble clubs in response to pupils showing an interest in these. ONAC hopes to consolidate these efforts through the summer period.

In terms of ‘healing’, ONAC runs a project that aims to get members of our community come together to feel better, and to become even more engaged with other communities in Oxford. For ONAC, healing mean being active, enjoying life, and getting to know others. 

The Pandemic has had a negative impact on mental health issues among many members of the North African community, and ONAC is trying its best to meet the need for healing by organising various educational and social events. For more information, please get in touch with Al-Amal School via their website.