The refugee crisis can seem far away but it’s actually right here on our doorstep.
For nine years Playback Theatre South West has been working regularly with groups of asylum seekers and refugees in Plymouth. Our project supports the lives of hundreds of these young people, women and men as they integrate into life in the UK.
We are a company of 8 men and women trained and skilled in a playback theatre method of dialogue and enactment that has a rich history of community engagement. In this time of cut backs and austerity politics, funding for work in the arts and for community projects is harder than ever to find.
We urgently need your help now to continue this important work
The people we are working with have fled war and violence, have been trafficked or forced through terrible poverty to seek survival and a better life. We engage with people’s stories and experiences from their own lives through playback theatre methods, fostering a sense of community, well-being and togetherness, with good spirit and kindness.
Their stories range from everyday experiences of life in Plymouth to children remembering the horrors of war; memories of journeys by boat or trucks; months journeying from Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan, Eritrea – from the middle East or African countries, through the Jungle in Calais. Often their stories involve the pain or grief of being separated from or losing family members and loved ones.
Our project helps people feel connected, safe, heard, part of a community.
Helping refugees integrate into the local community
These refugees and asylum seekers are in a difficult time of transition. They are learning how to build a new life very different from the one left behind. Beginning a new life requires a sense of possibility and understanding of the people and culture around them. Our project is the vehicle through which this can and does happen. The interactive nature of the project fosters an atmosphere of belonging.
- We support refugees to feel less isolated
Every voice is welcomed so that feelings of isolation are diminished.
- Use of English language improves
English language ability is strengthened hugely as people hear and speak it in a safe and supportive atmosphere engaging with stories relevant to their lives.
- Care and wellbeing
There is often much laughter and playfulness in this project. Participation and sharing stories allows relaxation, fostering a sense of well-being.
- Breaking down barriers
We work at an interface between different cultures. The sessions support understanding of the UK host culture. Refugees and asylum seekers meet others from many different cultures. As they engage with the project barriers are broken down. Our interactive intervention allows important broadening of perspectives.
Will you donate now? You can be part of this and make a big difference in the lives of refugees and asylum seekers who are here, now.
“Our hearts feel freer and bigger”
Feedback from the refugee women illustrated how the sessions help people come out of the sadness, loneliness, stress or depression from their past experiences as well as their unsettled, marginalised presence here in UK. They celebrated how the project brought them into a space of kindness, appreciation, generosity and togetherness. They loved listening to each others’ stories.They found new confidence to give voice to their own experiences and issues. They said the work we do with them helps them feel respected and build good connection between different cultures. Our sessions helped their English language improve in leaps and bounds –crucial for anchoring life here in England.
"It made me feel normal and it makes us feel confident because you're telling your story, you're telling your problem and you don't feel shy or ashamed about it. You share it with everybody and you know how to share problems because when somebody doesn't tell their problems and kept it inside they will feel like they are in prison or something like that. If we slightly open the door, you know you may get out and people get in."
We want you to hear feedback from the Women’s Creative Group as we finished our last day with them after weeks of regular sessions. They are not speaking on this film as it is not straightforward or necessarily safe for them to be seen in a video in this way – for many different reasons. If you scroll down, you can read moving, representative quotes from them.
Our project is about to come to a standstill without funding to continue.
It risks ending at a crucial time when integration into local life and overcoming trauma is vital to the future wellbeing of the refugee community.
We want to continue as a constant, dependable presence for the some 250 asylum seekers and refugees who will have ongoing access to this project for a year, starting September 2017.
Our work, our practice engages with
- women with their young children including newcomers as they arrive
- young people facing the challenges of integrating into school and life in the UK where they often experience bullying
- adult refugees, men and women, and families who are remaking their lives here far from home, far from family and friends - often with the most terrible pain and losses behind them
- social work and occupational therapy students who are learning to support the lives of refugees and asylum seekers in Plymouth.
Can you help by supporting the work now?
We urgently need help to be able to continue this work.
• £250 will enable one refugee to access a whole year of activities.
• £100 will pay a bus fare for 25 asylum seekers and refugees to attend one session.
• £12 will pay a bus fare for 3 women to attend a session supporting their travel to participate.
In the women’s sessions we give each the cost of a daily bus pass, £4.00, which allows them to attend the session. Being able to attend makes a significant difference in their lives.
Your donation will really make a difference in their lives.
See what the participants said :
“Thank you for your time and patience. We feel we are in good hands. We can talk about everything. It makes our hearts freer and bigger”
“Thank you. I feel at home. I feel joy and happiness. Even when I am sad when I get here, I feel happy. We feel like one.”
“ Thank you for your acts towards us because we are refugees. We have come here and we are going through stress and feel lonely. THIS is how we become stronger to raise our children.”
“Thank you for your kindness. We really appreciate. When I come here my mood changes, I feel like a Queen. I feel happy and I enjoy it.”
“Thank you for allowing me to be here. I appreciate for all we have said and you have shown in an artistic way.”
“This is the only place I feel respected and I will be listened to.”
“In this group I know other people. I learn other countries culture. It’s very important for me. I learn English. When I came I didn’t know and I didn’t speak anything. Thank you so much”
“I wait for Tuesday. It’s nice to be with the kids.(She doesn’t have her own children) I have depression and here I feel very good”
“Thank you for what we make together. We meet people from another country. We play. I like your drama. I come to watch you. I feel Here (she touches her heart). It makes me happy. Thank you to you all. We miss you”
“We are only happy when we come here. Happy we are with a lot of other people. We wait for every Tuesday. You help us speak about ourselves and how we feel. It improves our language to speak English well”
“ I like it all. We are very stressed and it’s difficult for us. I have lost my family. Now I am happy when I come here. You make something for US. We can forget the past. I am very happy when I come here.”
“ I am very enthusiastic about coming. It is funny. How did you learn to do this? Your acting is amazing. I always wonder how you hear others and then perform it. We would like to learn. Who taught you?”
Through the course of last term we have had a request from the women’s creative group that they would like to learn the Playback Theatre form themselves and offer it in women only settings. We would love to be in a position to offer this training and to create a company of women who can serve one another’s stories with empathy, openness and understanding. This would be a wonderful achievement – developing confidence and communication skills as well as continuing the work we have begun.
Please donate generously.
Please be part of this solution
Please will you reach out to these refugees, asylum seekers hoping for safety, sanctuary and well-being – yet whose situation brings them to hover with minimal resources, living in uncertainty, marginalisation and limbo for months or even years here in the heart of our communities.