'Cumbria is a welcoming place': Asylum seekers face NHS staff in football match

  • Our reporter Ryan Dollard went along to meet the team.

"Cumbria is a welcoming place and we want to continue to push that message."

Those are the words of Dr Joseph Dunkwu, an NHS doctor based in West Cumbria who took part in a special match at Melbourne Park on Saturday.

The match saw a team of international NHS workers based in west Cumbria lock horns with Hilltop United, a side set up by Carlisle Refugee Action Group to promote health and wellbeing among those seeking refuge.

"People have extended hands of friendship to me and that is why I am here today," said Dr Dunkwu, an immigrant and GP.

"As you can see, we are here with our families. That tells you that Cumbria is a welcoming place and we want to continue to push that message out there, especially those of us that work in the NHS."

Hilltop United were set up to promote mental health and wellbeing. Credit: ITV Border

Esther Jusulana, who also works for the NHS in West Cumbria, said: "It was quite exciting to see different people from West Cumberland as well as Carlisle come together to have fun and also emulate teamwork."

Another NHS worker from West Cumbria, Funmi Alao, said: "Football is one time where everyone comes together, irrespective of their background or profession.

"When it comes to football people tend to be friends, so it's important we show that kind of friendship between the NHS and the community."

It is hoped that football will help refugees integrate within the Carlisle community with the sport able to bring people together like few things can.

Chris Middleton, from Carlisle Refugee Action Group, said: "Integration within the local community has been absolutely fantastic.

"We had a football match recently against Forest Green and that was a great integration into the community. We have another match next week to again talk about community integration so the lads can have a very positive outlook on their lives."

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