Latin American Support Network (Lasnet), or LASNET, started as a project of the organisation Migrant Support many years ago, aiming to support the most vulnerable people with a Latin American background who, after the economic crisis of 2009, emigrated from Spain, Italy and Portugal.
Many of them arrived in the UK, so many soon began to need advice and support on how to settle in their new host country. Many families required information and advice, unemployed migrant workers needed support with finding jobs, and many people had to learn the English language.
The community needed to come together. This project was therefore set up by a group of volunteers with a Latin American background, most of whom were students from the University of Manchester and/or residents of Greater Manchester. LASNET wished to aid Latin Americans living in this part of the country to find a place in the North West and a community which shares traditions and cultural backgrounds. Over the years, the group continued working together, delivering activities and small projects with the assistance of Migrant Support.
Amongst its biggest achievements, are activities such as International Women’s Day celebrations, talks, workshop sessions, provided information and advice. It has also worked with Migrant Support to reach out to Spanish and Portuguese-speaking communities in Greater Manchester to receive English classes during and after the pandemic.
The organisation has faced its challenges with becoming independent, working with a constant rotation of volunteers, and maintaining costs to uphold its work and website.
Despite this, it has dedicated substantial time and commitment to founding and sustaining the project, financed by Sport for England and the Big Lottery Fund.
Moreover, it has been part of the Coalition of Latin Americans in the UK (CLAUK) since its beginnings, ensuring that the voices and needs of the Latin American community living in the North and outside London are heard and met.
One of its main campaigns was the COVID-19 informative campaign enabled via CLAUK during the pandemic. The organisation reached out to over 100 people in this time, and an additional 30 people also received education in collaboration with Migrant Support.
After the pandemic, the group met and had its first Annual General Meeting, where it nominated its first committee of trustees in 2022. Since then, the organisation has continued to grow, with Fatima Anabelle Freire Alvarado, Sandra Ayda Peñaloza Torrez Rice, Islam Atmane El Akeb Molina and Maria de L Rodriguez Bueno as co-founders and the first elected committee, joined by another 12 members of Lasnet.
As one of the only organisations working with Latin Americans in the North, it relies on word-of-mouth and self-referrals to reach those in need of its services. The local community are frequently becoming volunteers, befrienders and mentors. Currently, they are working on a new campaign encouraging people from the community to keep active and looking at the wellbeing of the participants and their families, including its project Dance for life. These campaigns complement its main focus on the education, integration and wellbeing of the Latin community in the North West.
(Photos: LASNET website)
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