The 30 November RSA event on communities and their impact on wellbeing was a timely reminder for Catherine Shovlin FRSA, founder of Bold Vision - a community charity based in South East London. She is now evaluating the first stage of the charity’s twinning project with a Syrian refugee camp.
When the project was first conceived in April 2015, Syrian refugees were not yet the media sensation they have become in the West. But the problem was no less extensive or urgent. During Catherine's initial conversations with the Community Services Director for the refugees, she was struck by the similarities between the camp and the London communities she serves.
“In New Cross we face challenges of isolation too. People worry about their teenage sons disengaging and getting into trouble. Elderly relatives have trouble adapting to a dynamic community. New mothers, hundreds of miles from friends and family, struggle to cope with loneliness and uncertainty. We have seen how easily accessible initiatives like the 100 Sunflowers project or the street festival or participatory art have built new connections in our community and we wanted to see if that might help in an extreme situation like a refugee camp.”
The first stage of the project –the artworks created by Artmongers in July 2015 – is important in its own right, but the team also hope it can be a pilot to demonstrate the value of psychosocial activity of this nature even in the face of urgent practical problems like food and security. In the short film of the project staff at the camp explain why the refugees “decided to call this Hope Square, because we Arabs need hope”.
Catherine is using the 5 measures of wellbeing to track improvement in order to help build the case for roll-out of the project. In the first instance this was done on paper – using pictures to overcome language and literacy barriers. Now to make data collection and transfer for analysis more robust Catherine has had this paper form made into an app. They have tablets on the camp thanks to Bibliotheques Sans Frontieres who installed an Ideas Box there.
“I’m looking forward to seeing my research team when I go back in January for the post-evaluation” explained Catherine. “They did so well in the base line data gathering, despite being teenagers with no prior experience. And they enjoyed the chance to have something to do and do it well. When they are out and about with tablets instead of clipboards this will be a great next step. It also makes replicability much more possible”
If anybody wishes to contribute funds to the project they can do so on Indiegogo bit.ly/refugeetwinning. Or if they can support in other ways please contact firstname.lastname@example.org