Working in collaboration with Migrant Help, Spring to Life ran a Tree of Life programme with newly arrived young refugees and asylum seekers. It took place during June and September of this year, and was funded by Swan Mountain Trust.
Tree of Life is a ‘narrative psychology’ approach originally developed in Africa for traumatised young people and children. It involves giving participants an opportunity to explore their lives (including their traumas) and their sense of selves from a position of strength and empowerment. This is done creatively with participants depicting their lives as a tree with different parts of the tree representing different aspects of their lives. While exploring their tree of life participants to connect with other people through sharing experiences and gifting comments on other people’s sharing, with the process culminating in people’s individual trees coming together to make up a Tree of Life. We had participants from Syria, Iran, Kurdistan and Afghanistan.
We held the first part of the programme at the beautiful Martineau Gardens, where as well as people taking part in the day long session they also got to enjoy the beauty, peace and friendly atmosphere of this community garden. The intention of this aspect is to encourage participants to return to visit Martineau Gardens independently in their own time, as a way to promote integration and connection between refugee and migrant communities with local projects.
The second part of the programme involed getting the same participants to take part in actual planting trees themselves in a community space, or to care for fruit trees at a community orchard. This follow up section of the programme worked with the Fruit and Nut Village Stirchley project to support the ‘edible park’ initiative at Hazewell Park.
Here are some testimonials from participants:
“The course was so helpful and made me feel very happy”
“Learnt more about how to deal with difficulties”
“Learnt to be patient when facing calamity”
“Talk together and get help from
During the summer, Spring to Life began a ‘Needs assessment’ initiative in the Three Estates – South Kings Norton. Funded by the Big Lottery Community fund, we have been speaking to a wide range of people in different settings in order to capture a sense of what the concerns and visions are for their community, and what are the priorities for developing positive mental health and well-being. We have taken on people living locally to help with this. So far we have had a couple of ‘Vox Pops’ in Hawkesley Square. We also plan to speak to people in GP practices, sheltered housing sites, door to door visits, as well as for our new local members to carry out these conversations with their own friends and neighbours.
The long term aim is for the results of this Needs Assessment to set the basis for developing a long term well-being programme in the area, supporting different social groups using different approaches, and working in partnership with other organisations operating in the area.
A key component of this current project is also for Spring to Life to continue to develop its local networks. There are many local projects and groups doing amazing work in the community. During our Vox Pops and other community conversations we have been sign-posting people to these existing projects.
From these conversations we are also developing a core group of local people that we come across that are interested in seeing their community improve and grow. This group will get to meet once in a while and advise on the long term development of the Spring to Life programme.
Some of the things these conversations are showing us are the huge assets that this community has. These include an incredible sense of community where people know each other and look out for one another, the many green spaces in the area, and other spaces such as the Hawkesley Community Centre and as well as other facilities. Spring to Life will aim to make use of these assets in order to maximise the impact made.
For the last few months Gillian, our art for well-being therapist, has been running textile and embroidery sessions with clients from Freedom from Torture. This has been to produce work to commemorate the 10th anniversary of West Midlands Freedom from Torture.
Throughout the thoughtful and reflective sessions, themes of inner transition emerged around identity and belonging. There was a strong sense of celebration, appreciation and gratitude within the group and the aesthetics certainly had underlying links to finding peace within conflict, nature connection, difference, diversity and inclusion, as well as spirituality/connections with faith.
Here are are some testimonies from Freedom from Torture staff who were also present during the sessions:
“The power and richness of the workshops, because of the knowledge you hold as an artist, was great to see and experience. Your skills, thought and preparation really came across and as a result fifteen of our service users engaged in the project within this short time – which is just amazing!”
“Your interaction with familiar faces from previous groups and other service users who were new to yourself and the centre was welcoming and warm in such a way that they knew they were in a safe place, and were able to experiment with new and old modes of expression. In addition, your confidence in the efficacy of complementary approaches made the project so successful”.
“I note that there were clients who participated in the group who, in individual sessions, have struggled to overcome avoidance in terms of their image making. The workshop setting that you created offered them a quiet and confidential space to be absorbed in the process in the presence of others, with the making facilitating self-regulation and increasing self-esteem. This shows how arts activity makes a difference, which will no doubt pave the way for ongoing social and well-being participation with a gained sense of possibility”.
“I thought that you gave just the right amount of direction, and the right amount of choice to stimulate interest. I would guess that all (me included) were introduced to a new skill/technique”.
Spring to Life has re-commenced it’s well-being programme with Freedom from Torture titled ‘Freedom to Create’, starting with a a textiles workshop. There will be five textiles sessions creating work to celebrate Freedom From Torture West Midland’s 10th Anniversary.
For the first session participants were engaged and produced very sensitive work. They painted and printed fabric that will be used to create textile pieces in future sessions.