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Psychosocial safety nets

In this work we often meet individuals who have lost confidence in everyday norms and mutual trust, thus experiencing an acute sense of disorientation. With our arts-based psychosocial groups we try to offer opportunities for people to inhabit a place, and make connections.

This week there has been a lot of linking up and networking in the Calais area. This included delivering our first Arts-based Psychosocial Training for local staff and volunteers working across services.


HOSTEL We visited our refugee friends at this mid point in Ramadan, the marking of which holds huge significance in helping to affirm the parameters of who people are. They asked us to help make the right links with the right people for their needs to be understood, and we managed to join the medical staff there with our knowledgeable colleagues at Medecins du Monde.

DAY CENTRE The centre felt fuller, with a number of people resting or sleeping on carpets around the edge of the room, needing replenishment; others were absorbed in their phones in the way only teenagers can be; people generally finding a place to be. Our new set of stone blocks and toy vehicles brought a new patina to the map tablecloth. One man who confirmed he is a mathematician built a structure with engineering precision.

DISTRIBUTION Here we set up a different constellation of maps in this fragmented setting on the edge of town, in an effort to create a sense of a place – the large map on the ambulance, the map tablecloth on the ground and the new world map on the large fence behind which individuals had already pitched or were putting up tents. The world map allowed for the bigger picture to be viewed in a more dispassionate way, with conversations moving backwards and forwards between this and the more intimate large map on the ambulance. The map on the ground allowed for playful interaction, the cars and trucks particularly poignant in this setting.

FRIDAY At the Secours Catholique team meeting there was a lot of reporting back of conferences attended, new knowledge shared and received.

SAFE HOUSE Many of the teenagers were out of the house or sleeping upstairs, some having just cooked up and eaten an intensely chilli-filled dish. The stone blocks brought something new, allowing for the building of ruins and ancient sites, bringing a sense of history. There was a playful energy – as ever the buildings and towers were temporary, falling back down to the table.

SATURDAY THE TRAINING The theme was ‘Psychosocial Groups: basic principles’ – and the training session was delivered in both French and English, the first of a series of six between now and December. We were delighted that 21 people attended from different organisations.

Our time this week was bookended by the significance of networking. In such a hostile environment it was affirming to hear positive and shared intentions amongst people trying to provide a psychosocial safety net.

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