The Masked Men organisation based in Croydon provides services for migrant men in need of support.
Malik Ali, the founder, wanted to provide a safe place in the community where migrant men can confide in other people who have dealt with similar situations.
His main focus is to address issues of accessibility and to promote mental well-being among the men.
Malik builds trust and confidence with them by offering not only professional help, but by also creating more personal relationships.
The organisation hosts activities such as bowling and arts and crafts to get to know the men on a more personal level.
Malik said: “We do these activities to promote integration and address loneliness, but also to create trust amongst ourselves so we can then express our worries.
“I don’t just ask them what help they need as not everyone is initially happy to share.
“These activities help us get to know each other and then I can find out what support they need and signpost them.”
Malik founded his organisation in 2019.
Since then it has connected with umbrella organisation Croydon BME Forum and Off The Record youth counselling.
Both of these non-profit organisations challenge mental health inequalities and stigma experienced by Black and minority ethnic people, similarly to Masked Men.
Masked Men currently holds events and talks in the Croydon BME Forum’s Wellness Centre.
They hold a weekly Monday session where people can come along for a chat about their worries and get to know each other.
Malik explained the worries he faced himself as a migrant and said that going through this trouble perpetuated feelings of stress.
He said: “I am a migrant man myself and going through documentation, not having the right to work and having no recourse to public funds was stressful on its own.
“Then when you get to the stage of having children it becomes an even bigger problem as a man not being able to support your family.
“Not having anyone to listen to you and counsel you — it’s a huge issue.”
These worries are quite common for migrants so Malik has made it his mission to ensure people in this position have their voices heard.
Since launching his organisation he has built good friendships with some of the men he supports and they keep in close contact.
He finds his job very rewarding, and expresses his happiness at being able to offer not only professional help, but also friendship.
He added: “There was one refugee who came to me and said he had never been out since he had come to this country.
“He told me Masked Men was the first organisation to take him out in the community!”
Although Croydon BME Forum are currently accommodating Masked Men, they do not have a permanent office.
They have only had funding from the National Lottery community fund, with the last payment being £8,538 on 5 March 2021.
Malik wishes to expand his project into different communities but currently this is not a possibility due to a lack of funds.
Masked Men offers its services with the help of volunteers only and limited funds, so any donations are welcome.
Donations can be made via their website.
Details of future events can be found on their Instagram page or on the website.
Picture Credit: Masked Men