Refugee camp report back

As some of you already know, Bold Vision team member Catherine went back to the refugee camp in January to try to pilot some of our twinning projects. Here are some of the outcomes she could report on.

the road

IMPACT EVALUATION of first projects: This was the primary reason for the visit. If weAz eval can’t show what we did made any difference then it will be hard to raise funds for future projects. We were delighted to see the data confirmed our hypothesis based on all of the work Artmongers and Bold Vision have done – that empowering refugees to change their environment builds connections and increases well being. We looked at a village on the camp where Artmongers did not do any work (control group), and one where they did (affected group), and gathered wellbeing data both before and after the intervention.

impact

As you can see from the chart, the affected group showed a significantly better change in wellbeing over the last six months, especially the women. Staff on the camp confirmed there had been no other interventions that could account for this.

A couple more houses had been painted in the vicinity of Hope Square.Az paintedThey were keen to show me what they had done for themselves. And I saw Peace Rocks in the office. It is unfortunate that the increased security in place since activity increased in Syria greatly restricted the time I could spend in the camp, but I still had many heartening interactions with refugees, staff and volunteers.

Going back was an important step in developing our relationship with the camp. Some staff and some children were the same and remembered me from the July visit. They were surprised and reassured that we were back and much more confident when I said that we would be back again. They see a lot of visitors – there were 3 delegations while I was there this time – but they don’t often see people twice. They saw that we mean it. That we want to be with them.

SEWING CIRCLES: There are many traditions of women gathering to makeAz sequinsthings together. Creating bonds and community strength as they do. Quilting circles among American pioneers, arpillera groups in Peru – even our own knitting group in Telegraph Hill. We gathered materials from local residentsAz sewand friends, from a sympathetic shop owner in Brick Lane, from materials donated to new Cross Learning. Because of police restrictions in the camp it wasn’t possible to run the sessions in among the shelters, but the staff helped gather a group of women and girls to meet at the communityAz embroiderycentre where about 20 of us experimented with sequins and designs and embroidery thread. One or two of the girls knew some things and I loved seeing their pride as they showed their friends how to thread a needle. Others had no idea and required my (fairly rubbish!) sewing tuition. By the end, they all knew how to thread a needle with the right length of thread, tie a knot in the end, and do chain stitch. It’s a start. I hope they experiment some more with the left over scraps and start to imagine. Maybe if they take their sewing home their grandmothers will remember and show them more

BOOK DONATIONS: thanks to book donations from around the hill, andAz bookssome helpful rule bending by the British Airways check in desk, I managed to take about 40 children’s books to the camps. They were all English which isn’t ideal but I read some of them to groups of children – with enough sign language, the pictures and the odd bit of English vocabulary, we collaborated some understanding of the stories. They liked the idea of a mobile library and we evolved that into a mobile story telling unit. On our next visit we will organise that so that stories can go to the children, maybe with some activities and a few stools or cushions to create pop up story telling circles. When they build the library on the camp later this year this will work well together. Since my visit \I have also made contact with an Arabic book publisher and an organisation creating the first spoken book materials in Arabic to help those people with low literacy also access learning and entertainment.

SONG EXCHANGE: Before going to the camp, Catherine met with Byron, the music coordinator at Edmund Waller and he invited some of the children to perform some traditional English songs. While she was there, Catherine explained Incey Wincey spider (!!) and gave the children’s activities leader the words and actions. He will teach the children in the camp the song and send a film back to Edmund Waller. He will also film them singing a traditional Syrian song so children here can learn it. We hope one day they can sing together over live streaming. Note that in both locations this is being treated as a regular song exchange. The children don’t share information about their stories / circumstances and the videos will not be published anywhere.

NEXT STEPS

  • They agreed that they would like more squares like Hope Square to be made so we are looking for ways of funding the £15k it will cost to do 4 more.
  • We will make a shorter version of the video with a voiceover which they will then get agreement for so we can publish it online
  • I will write a report based on the impact evaluation with a view to getting more funding
  • With more staff connections on the camp, we will make sure the next visit is a step forward for these other projects and maybe the next ones
  • We will send them photos of Peace Rocks in the Telegraph Hill Festival

Az sunset

Refugee twinning action meeting

workshop 2TWe had a very productive meeting last night and identified several great potential twinning projects. We showed the film again for those who had not been at the first meeting, and heard some great stories from people at the meeting with experience in Palestinian refugee camps in the 80s (Kitty) and Indian/Pakistan partition refugee camps in 1945 (Durgesh). A lot of the human issues are the same and there are inspiring examples from both these situations to inform our own project development.

The projects we are developing are described in a bit more detail below. We need somebody to lead each one with the aim of spending the next month exploring the idea, potential contacts etc. This leader does not have to make a commitment to deliver the project, it is more like being its first guide to see if it looks like something we could explore further.

Next time we meet we will together choose the two projects that seem most possible and of value to both our community and the people in the camp. Once they are underway we will move on to starting up the next two. We hope to involve more of you in these individual projects so if something appeals to you and your interests or you have a good contact who might be able to help, please get in touch with boldvisionmail@gmail.com.

All projects should be in tune with Bold Vision values:

Openness: for all, not elitist

Mutuality: benefits to both communities, not patronising, not a handout

Potentialising: raising skills and awareness for all involved

Courage: may mean thinking in new ways, going beyond our comfort zones

Ideas that have already progressed a little

Bilingual Youth

Idea: Bring together young people in London learning Arabic and young people in the camp who want to learn English. Involve library donations and understanding of Arabic literature. Possible support from SOAS and British Lbrary. We also have a refugee volunteer in the camp who speaks and teaches English informally and is willing to coordinate.

Intention: Cultural exchange, improved understanding of Arab culture in London,

Leader: Soile

Knitting / Craft circles

Idea: create easy entry, safe neighbourhood eg per block where women can gather in each others houses on a rotation basis to spend an hour doing craftwork together. We could gather donated materials and teach a few leaders who could then teach each other. Could be communal knitting projects eg knitting blanket squares for the newest arrival / baby, knitting an art collage for the ‘street’. Search skills data base / advertise for those who already know how.

Intention: Encourage connections between women in the camp to improve well being and mental health.

Leader: Kitty

Music with children

Idea: create a combined choir sharing songs between Edmund Waller and school in the camp. To sing together via live streaming and to send recordings of each other singing each other’s songs.

Intention: Cultural exchange as well as interesting activity and human connection for both groups of children

Leader: ?

‘Barn-raising’

Idea: create action focus for men to come together and redress their sense of powerlessness to protect and provide for their families. Eg build a children’s playground together, build a shaded seating area by water tap

Intention: build connections, improve well being, benefit of new facilities and sense of pride / ownership

Leader: tbc but Anshu will kick off

Peace Rocks

Idea: have a peace rock dipping event during Jan / Feb and create a version of the house diamonds in the Hill Station. Partner with Ministry of Peace campaign?

Intention: sense of connection, raise awareness

Leader: Catherine

Other possibilities in early stages of development

Thrivers or survivors: use of simple, first aid type psychological support (eg Talk for Health course that we ran – via RSA – at New Cross Learning or the Dementia training that Judy Harrington has offered to do at Hill Station or New Cross Learning)

Forum Theatre / drama as suggested by Sylvestre Le Touzel Teale at last meeting. ? Using Cardboard Citizens style techniques. John will discuss with Bold Backer Adrian Jackson

Cooking Circles: cooking on a gas ring and with limited ingredients is a challenge, especially for those who are used to a full kitchen in their former life. Bold Vision project Grow Wild face similar challenges with their field kitchen. Possibility of recipe sharing, technique sharing, competitions (like Ready, Steady Cook where the limited ingredients are part of the concept)

Mobile library: create a small library that can be wheeled around the camp (eg using this kind of robust wagon). Train teenagers to be library drivers and manage the process. Develop a sense of community (like all running out for the ice cream van or – in my day J – the pop man, the egg man ad the knife sharpening man), increase access to books for those not allowed to live home.

School link: explored idea of cultural interaction through play between children at John Stainer school and those in the camp. Playground games exchange? Stories? Drawings?workshop 2T

 

The Funding Network shows its support

On Saturday Mar 17th, Gill Hart, Kath Dunbar, Rebecca Charikar and myself set off for our try at the “Dragon’s Den” of The Funding Network. This organisation was set up ten years ago to give individuals with the means and the will to donate to charity a more meaningful way to do so. We presented our story along with four other great charities and then waited with fingers crossed while the 30 or so members and visitors made their pledges.

We were delighted to go a little over our (hopeful) target and raised £5,426. As per our application this will be used for 3 things

  1. finishing the participatory artwork to breathe new life into the front of the former library (still time to participate… just fill in a couple of details here to have your book feature)
  2. finding out what learning opportunities are of most interest to the library users – and provide them
  3. develop sustainable tools to help us manage our volunteers and other resources and connect to other organisations
The money is great and it was heartening to hear so much positive feedback from the Funding Network people – they see New Cross Learning as an innovative community-driven and flexible model that many traditional libraries could learn from.

RSA Catalyst supporting library

See the video here. We have already received a £2000 grant from the RSA Catalyst fund to create the new participatory artwork for the former library in New Cross and this week we featured in the RSA e-newsletter

Remember you can be part of this too by completing page 2 of this kit ourbookshelf

New artwork at New Cross Library

Do you have a favourite book? Or one you wish existed? Maybe that one up your sleeve that you will write yourself one day?

Well now’s your chance to get into print. Come along to the Artmongers workshop at the library on Nov 18th to make your part of this exciting new artwork. Secondary school children 3.30-5pm, adults 6-8pm

 

 

Mad Hatters Tea Party Sep 17

Hi Friends of NXPL

First of all, a very big thank you to all of you who have enabled us to get this far with the venture of the Library being open again 3 days a week. This is now mainly under the supervision of volunteers.

If you don’t follow us on twitter then you won’t know that 316 people passed through the doors yesterday. We literally had to throw people out last night, so we will soon have to consider extending our late night on a Thursday! Poets Corner is a success and our local poets in residency will soon be taking their wares into Deptford Green School for taster sessions and then continuing workshops in the Library on Thursday 4:30-5:30. Evidence of their work will be heard at the Tea Party on Saturday when two of the poetry competition competitors recite their work.

Saturday 17th is a very busy day this week. The usual will be on offer plus…

  • 11:45 under 7s storytelling from favourite children’s books along with creative activities.
  • 2:00   Knitting Club for all abilities
  • 3:00   Creative Workshop for 8-15year olds (a few places still available) led by local artist John Paul Flintoff
  • 5:00   Tea Party with lots of lovely cakes and cups of teas (with saucers)Raffles, Poetry reading, Rap and a trio of local lads who met at primary school

The Tea Party is a fundraising event, equally it is a way of thanking everyone for their support. We need money for the rent and running costs to keep the library open by volunteers, so any donation will be well spent, what is important is that you come. We need to use it, we don’t want to lose it again.

Look forward to seeing so many of you tomorrow,

Gill (Hart)

Volunteer and chair of New Cross People’s Library