A PROJECT has been launched to help “build bridges” between Wearsiders and asylum seekers.
Over the next three years, the Changing Lives project will focus on inter-cultural contact between minority groups and professionals in the public, private and voluntary sectors.
The scheme was made possible with more than £500,000 from the Big Lottery Fund and Northern Rock Foundation.
It aims to give a voice to minorities.
The Regional Refugee Forum and the University of Sunderland will work together to help give minority groups the “confidence” to be themselves.
Project manager Herbert Dirhau said: “When refugees and asylum seekers come here, it is a new environment which can be overwhelming for some people.
“The project is here to give people information and help in their settlement in the North East.”
The idea came from research by the forum and the university which found there was a lot of “anxiety and uncertainty” in the area.
The project hopes to help break these down by getting people talking, bridging the gap between the two groups.
It is hoped staff and students at Sunderland University will help broker meetings between professionals and the region’s “emerging communities”.
Rick Bowler, from Sunderland University, said: “This project is about a two-way conversation and building bridges between cultures and communities.”