We are delighted to announce that Devon Cricket have teamed up with a number of local partners to deliver ECB-funded cricket sessions in Exeter and Torbay for refugees and individuals seeking asylum in the UK.

With the support of the ECB and in partnership with local charity The Thrive Project, weekly sessions been taking place in Torbay since November, led by Club and Community Coach Niall Leahy.

The Thrive Project provides essential support for those in need and has been working hard to improve the lives of individuals seeking asylum in the UK. Rachel from The Thrive Project expressed her gratitude for the efforts of Devon Cricket, saying that the cricket sessions have provided the participants with a welcoming environment and a safe space to be themselves.

"Alex, Niall and the team have been real troopers in facilitating weekly sessions and helping make the chaps feel welcome and integrated, irrespective of their background, nationality or skill set.

"The sessions have provided a highlight in an otherwise tedious life, with no security or ability to work or study and we know that research shows boredom and isolation kills. Each week we see smiles, healthy competition and camaraderie.

"Some individuals that attend have suffered harrowing experiences at the hands of others and we give them a safe space to be themselves with no agenda and I am proud of and grateful to everyone involved in helping these lovely youngsters flourish."

A number of participants have now started attending nets at Paignton CC as they look to continue their cricket.

Oby, one of the participants at the Torbay sessions who is now netting regularly with Paignton CC, expressed his gratitude for the support provided:

"I am very grateful for the efforts of Thrive and Devon Cricket in setting up the cricket project. It is a great support for individuals and allows us to continue playing and enjoying the sport, even during inclement weather."

Thanks to a grant from Torbay Council's Back to Sport Fund, the sessions will continue until the end of April, after which the weather should be good enough to play outside.

Smiles all around at our weekly sessions in Exeter.In addition to the Torbay sessions, weekly cricket sessions have also been established in Exeter, led by Clubs and Programmes Manager Alex Jopling. The focus of these sessions is on individuals from Afghanistan seeking asylum or who are recent refugees. The Exeter sessions have been made possible through the support of several partners: Inclusive Exeter, Refugee Support Devon, Exeter Afghan Community Association, the Live and Move Project and Exeter College

Souad, Resettlement Coordinator at Refugee Support Devon, spoke about the positive impact of the cricket sessions, saying that they support the well-being and integration of individuals into the community:

"I believe that the cricket sessions were a good start to helping them do something they like and are professional at. It has a good impact on their mental health and allowed them to find a space where they can practice their physical activities and professional skills.

"Also, it is something to make them remember what they were doing in their countries, therefore, bringing nice, warm memories to them from when they used to play cricket with their friends and people they knew. These sessions in Exeter are attracting more people which is helping them form new connections with different groups of people, which is really good for their social life and mental health, making them feel like they belong more and feel more accepted by the community."

Alex Jopling expressed his excitement about the success of the sessions, saying:

"The sessions have been an instant success and it is great to be able to support these individuals through cricket. The smiles on faces and passion for the sport, as well as the desire to take part from those completely new to cricket, has been a pleasure to see. I look forward to seeing many of the participants involved at local cricket clubs this season!"

The Exeter sessions have also been supported by Simon Hukku and Kate Le Maux from Exwick Cricket Club who have kindly given up their time to help, particularly with umpiring and scoring matches which often get quite competitive!