Sharing spaces: land, sea and sky

On Thursday Art Refuge UK worked with a psychologist in the psycho-social tent. The space soon filled with regular members of the art therapy group and new arrivals – some of who were introduced by longstanding members of the group keen to bring their friends and neighbours in for support.

A young man who shook hands with force as he entered the space enjoyed kneading and rolling plastecine until it became thin parchment to write on. He wrote messages of love for his mother in Pashtu, repeatedly sharing that he loved her “deeper than the ocean” and missed her enormously. In response, an under water scene was created, with a black tangle of waves which shared the all-consuming danger of the sea, and paid homage to 85 people that another young man advised the team that he had seen lost at sea from Turkey to Greece.

A young man from Afghanistan sat for some time observing others, unsure of what to create. He was shown the soft pastels and soon began using them, bringing his own technique and style – ‘making his mark’ with his finger prints. Opposite him a young man from Sudan used lush greens to recreate a typical scene of the mountains in his home district. He took care and consideration as he worked, and chose to come back to join the team in the hummingbird space to finish the work the next day.

A number of men seemed to need additional support yesterday, and Anna, Naomi and Jess each worked with individuals one-to-one as best as possible within a large communal space. Some of this took place outside of the tent, in the sun shine and open air where individuals could find a space to catch a breath – a pocket of fresh air to regulate emotions and rejuvenate.They shared a need for a place to express confusion, frustration, doubt and despair.

The partnership that we have built with Medicin du Monde was particularly noticed after these interventions, bringing a supportive space for all to think together about specific individuals and needs. A number of the young men needing particular support joined the team in the Hummingbird Project- Calais and Dunkirk – Aid and Solidarity Safe Space again on Friday.

As the team reached the Hummingbird Space, a boy from Balous Yourh Centre was quick to greet them and help set up. Before the team had unpacked he had started to work with the new kite materials and was soon outside flying his kite. Launching the kite in to the air and watching it find its way in the strong winds and open space seemed to offer a much needed release.

Again the group became busy, but with opportunity for the team to support individuals returning with acute needs, including a woman escorted to the space by another service. Whilst the other table inspired several collaborations amongst friends. Strong bonds were acknowledged as stories that have become strangely normal were shared; attempts to cross to the UK at night, fighting over heaters in cold evenings, running from police and hiding in lorry freezers. One gentle man patiently accompanied a young boy from Syria whom we have come to know well. They moved in and out of the space with an art therapist, acknowledging the skills the young boy has started to develop with a digital camera he often asks to use. More memorable moments of normality for these young residents included a Friday afternoon football match amongst residents and a south London boys school; boys using the space for half time biscuits and tea.

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