Pamoja - Calling for change

06 July 2017

“Thank goodness I left my house that day. I got confidence and strength to live life.”

For many refugees and asylum seekers, coming to Great Britain isn’t a decision, it is a necessity. Once they arrive, they can face issues and the African Community Centre, in Swansea, is just one organisation that provides support to those that need it.

The project, Pamoja – which means togetherness or oneness, provides group therapy for refugees and asylum seekers who have experienced trauma in their home country. It offers members the opportunity to socialise with people who have had similar experiences, make friends and build their confidence.

Participants at Pamoja's recent Refugee Week event.

Pamoja is funded by People’s Health Trust using money raised by HealthExpect, through The Health Lottery. The project runs weekly sessions with separate men’s and a women’s groups.

One of the Pamoja group participants came to Swansea only last year. Blessing came from Nigeria, alone and with no money.

She said it was difficult arriving alone, not knowing where she was going or who would help her.

Since being involved with the group, she has gained support and confidence. She has spoken at Swansea University and an international event at the Welsh Assembly in Cardiff; been part of a singing and dancing performance at Musical Routes performances and contributed views to an Oxfam Cymru consultation on refugee rights.

She said: “We share stories of what we are going through, it’s very encouraging. I would come back to group even if I get status.”

As well as building confidence, the project aims to help start to rebuild people’s lives and supports them to feel part of the community, with the help of group led discussion and support. 

People who have experienced trauma, loneliness and being new to the town or country benefit through sharing their stories together and taking part in group activities.  There is also a chance to get more involved in and enjoy therapeutic activities alongside the peer support group, including homeopathy and yoga. 

So popular, the original women’s group was oversubscribed so another group was set up on a different day, as although high attendance numbers are good it is better for everyone to have a say.

In the men’s group, attendance is lower as they have found that it is more challenging to get men to talk in groups. To get over this, an outreach group was piloted at a weekly asylum seeker support group, and is now offered monthly.

This year, to mark Refugee Week, the project put on events including African drumming, singing and storytelling.

Members also spoke to ITV Wales about their experiences, highlighting the support the group has and the need for mental health support.

According to the project, 100 per cent of women and 87 per cent of men feel safe to talk in the group and most feel less isolated.  Many of the participants have gone on to help volunteer, mentor or buddy with new asylum seekers in Swansea.



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