We witnessed quite a year in 2015, full of inspirational moments of kindness and incredible contributions by a huge number of people. However many of us probably moved in to 2016 also aware of the strong challenges we must acknowledge and work through across the world as well as on our own doorsteps: discrimination; disregard for the strengths of a world built on migration; the fostering of fear in order to feed endless greed.
In particular, we have seen such sadness as thousands of children, families and individuals have been forced to flee political conflict, persecution and poverty in the hope of finding a safer place they can call home. Thankfully many people have recognized that this is a shared challenge for us to overcome, which isn't a new concern and which doesn’t need to be named a crisis or an unmanageable feat when we think back to the efforts to support greater 'numbers' /'swarms'/ 'floodings' (as we see unique individuals and human-beings being scooped up in to the same labelled net) of displaced communities after WWII. But it does need an international response and assurance that we can work together, rather than against one another. Which of course would have meant finding solutions which stopped barrel bombs and the destruction of the homes of children and families in the first place. For starters, and for all its less helpful qualities, the international community of social media has brought glimmers of hope for a multinational support network. It has highlighted incredible solidarity and a bringing together of thousands of people from all walks of life who do care and have found themselves able to leap in to action to come together and pool resources of energy, ideas and materials, whether supporting post-earthquake relief or those reaching Europe in hope of safety and a chance of life. The Himalayan Disaster Relief Volunteer Group in Nepal, the Calais People To People Solidarity groups are just two examples of these networks, that have brought me such joy to observe - online and on the ground. These networks haven't waited for powers that be, they remain politically active and socially engaged but they haven't used up all of their energy reading national media messages and playing blame games from afar, they share a belief in (and hold some hope for) action; that lots of small acts make a big difference; that many small voices can make big noise.
Doctors of the World UK and Médecins du Monde France marked the start of the new year with an article highlighting their partnership with Art Refuge UK and the importance of collaboration, psychosocial support and art therapy in the camps in France (in Calais and Dunkirk):
It has been a brilliant few months since August/September working with Medecins du Monde and Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), in particular observing their support for art therapy and their awareness of the need for a range of approaches to supporting the mental health, resilience and recovery of communities in the camp. The specialist space and skills we can offer within the collaboration sensitively supports individuals’ verbal and non-verbal communications, recognises and responds to signs of trauma and other mental health issues, and bears witness through individual's art-making and images, to their traumatic stories and testimonies.
It has been such a pleasure to be able to be part of Art Refuge UK's team, alongside energized, grounded and real but ever- positive and motivated, art therapists and visual artists: Anna Kalin, Bobby Lloyd, Fawzia Afifi, Naomi Press and Sarah Robinson. Our work has been made possible largely due to the hugely generous private contributions from our supporters. We are delighted to be able to continue our work in to 2016 due to contributions from The Lapid Trust, Medecins du Monde and Medecins Sans Frontieres in particular, among others. Thank you for all of the support that some of you have offered in every shape and form. If you are yet to donate to our work and you are able to, you can do this via our JustGiving page.
If you would like to speak to us about any aspect of the work please keep in touch and feel free to contact us via the Art Refuge UK Facebook page. Thanks in advance, we really appreciate all that you do!