Two young members of Artcore's Sharing Stories project

Since 1998, Refugee Week has celebrated the contribution of refugees and migrants to the UK, encouraging a better understanding of diversity within local communities.

This year, Refugee Week runs from 17-23 June and will be marked by a nationwide programme of arts, cultural and educational events. It coincides with World Refugee Day, which takes place on 20 June. The theme of Refugee Week 2019 is #Generations. It is an invitation to raise awareness about the lives and experiences of displaced people - often escaping war and persecution - as well as the communities that have welcomed them over time.

At People’s Health Trust, some of the projects we fund support refugees to share their experiences, creating social ties and strengthening the sense of community. Residents from different cultural backgrounds come together and address inequalities by taking action on issues that are important to them.

The Derby Refugee Befriending Project, which is run by the Food and Education Enterprise (FEE), provides befriending opportunities for refugees and migrants. Sessions include cooking, language and IT classes, craft workshops and multi-cultural events with members of the wider community.

Project secretary, Ali Neghipooran explained: “The project supports refugees to take an active part in planning and leading the sessions, which leads to more successful integration in the community.

“One woman, an Iranian refugee, spoke little English and had no friends in the local community when she came to the UK. She met other residents with similar life experiences at our language classes and community events. The interactions with other members of the group have developed her confidence and language skills. She now volunteers regularly and helps to facilitate our workshops.”

For Refugee Week, FEE has partnered with various charities including Derby's British Red Cross and Migrant Help UK to deliver a series of events. The week will end with a large community networking event where members can socialise and share stories with people from both similar and different cultural backgrounds.

The Local Welcome project in Derby brings refugees and members of the local community to cook and eat a meal together.

Claire Brown from Local Welcome explained: “On each table, local people pair up with refugees who are new to the area. Each pair completes a series of recipe steps, and answers questions like, 'What's your favourite meal?' or 'What's your favourite memory from the place you were born?'

“The questions help to build friendship, connection and trust, while giving refugees an opportunity to practise their English. At the end, everyone chats and eats together.”

Amadou, a refugee guest in Derby said: "It's helped me to develop my English and meet new people. The food is great too!"

All projects funded by the Trust support residents to design and take control of their own initiatives and, in doing so, create new opportunities and choices.

Artcore supports refugees and migrants to use art and storytelling to promote diversity by connecting people of all ages, abilities and cultures.

Our Stories, a two-year project run by Artcore, involved weekly social sessions for refugees and migrants, followed by creative workshops. The project began in 2017 in response to feedback from Derby’s migrant community, who also contributed to the design and development of the workshops.

Project lead, Ruchita Shaikh explained: “At the start, project members that were new to the community experienced language barriers and social isolation. The sessions provided a safe space for them to make friends and learn new skills.”

The project concluded in April 2019 with an exhibition showcasing the artwork, and video interviews with the artists, project members and staff.

Ruchita said, “Local people from the wider community also attended to celebrate the project’s achievements. Overall, more than two-hundred people have made meaningful connections and friendships with others through the project.”

Artcore are continuing to run similar projects with the aim of creating a more integrated community.

As the UK celebrates Refugee Week this month, there are many ways to join in across the country.

To find out more about Refugee Week, click here.

Get ideas for how to take action to stand with refugees through Simple Acts.

Are you planning to celebrate Refugee Week this year? If so, we would love to hear from you. To send us your pictures and stories, click here.

To read more news from the Trust, click here.

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