It is well established that refugee and asylum-seeking women are confronted with a multitude of difficulties when attempting to seek settlement in the host country. They often face the effects of poverty, dependence, and a lack of social support that not only undermines their physical health but also their mental health.

Earlier this month, as part of the Gender and Justice Empowerment Project - 3 year Comic Relief funded programme, the IARS organised an Art Therapy workshop to a group of refugee women as an attempt to alleviate some of the effects of what was mentioned above.

The Art Therapy workshop aimed at addressing your inner thoughts and trying to understand what your body and mind are feeling. Using games and art therapy tools, different paths to communicate were explored as an attempt to listen to ourselves. Often our body speaks more that we think, so this workshop was an invitation to connect our feelings and sensations with our bodies and our experiences as an act of love, awareness and healing.

For me, this was a big eye opener because it reminded me of how easy it is for us to neglect our mental well-being.  The workshop was comprised of various components from the use of dance, sound and art. The women were encouraged to literally use their voices and express what emotions they were feeling.  Some expressed that they were feeling happy others expressed feelings of exasperation but everyone got a chance to communicate to the group what their mental state was.

My favourite part of the training day was the dancing exercise. We were instructed to get into groups of two and follow the dance moves of our partner. This then turned to one person having to instruct the whole group and the whole group following along in sync to the music. This was a real highlight for me because having the chance to move around was really stimulating and enjoyable and it really brought everyone together.

Another interesting element of the workshop was an arts and crafts exercise.  We got the chance to create a collage of how we were feeling through the use of newspapers and other art materials. It honestly helped me so much in the sense that I was able to let go and create something to map out my thoughts in a creative way.  Everyone got the chance to feedback what their collage represented and it was interesting to hear everyone’s individual feelings, their current difficulties and their aspirations. Each of the collages symbolised the range of feelings amongst the group, some expressed that they missed their families back home, others expressed that they felt very ambitious and were determined to pursue their goals, while others expressed their frustrations with the UK current political landscape and lack of regards for migrant’s rights.

Overall, the art therapy workshop was a great chance to get in touch with my emotions. It was an engaging day that really encouraged everyone to look after their mental health and do things that promote self-care and better mental well-being in our lives.  

This blog post was written by Chioma Wuche, Equalities Projects Intern at the IARS International Institute.