“Home is a feeling not a Place.
Though made with bricks and mortar, they are mortars of the mind…
There are endless possibilities of what I could make of my home.”
These words are written by David one of the refugee friends of JRS, reflecting on what home means to him, as somebody seeking sanctuary in the UK. For many refugee friends of JRS, the UK is the only place they can call home – yet they are routinely banned from participating in society, and even from earning a living to support themselves and their families. Their unique skills and talents are pushed aside by UK authorities, left to be wasted; buried in a complex system that prioritises hostility over humanity.
The JRS Open Writing Space is a particularly uplifting activity group guided and supported by poet and author Laila Sumpton. Reflections on ‘home’ were just some of the creative exercises led by Laila last year, as the group met online to write and share their work.
This year, to the joy of many refugee friends, the group is running once again, this time with a focus on more practical writing. The new sessions are a space in which refugee friends can practice writing functional pieces of work that they can use to progress their lives, express their thoughts, and take part in their local communities. From film reviews to CVs, letters, and essays, Laila expertly encourages refugee friends to understand the basics of a good written structure, and have some fun making it their own! Volunteer Sean is on hand to provide examples of his own work, and inspire those who may feel out of their comfort zone. It’s a collaborative space that feels informal and welcoming, open, creative and encouraging. By creating such a space for all to listen, to exchange and connect, the Open Writing Space perfectly embodies this year’s theme for Refugee Week; ‘We Cannot Walk Alone’.
Bold, hopeful and optimistic, this theme encapsulates the aims of the upcoming Refugee Week which takes place from 14th – 20th June. Refugee Week is a UK-wide festival celebrating the contributions, creativity and resilience of refugees and people seeking sanctuary. Through a programme of arts, cultural, and educational events alongside media and creative campaigns, Refugee Week enables people from different backgrounds to connect beyond labels, as well as encouraging understanding of why people are forcibly displaced, and the challenges they face when seeking safety.
The COVID-19 pandemic has proved challenging for us all, especially refugee friends. Yet it has also shown us how interconnected we all are – that the wellbeing of each of us depends on the welfare, safety and contribution of others. We are all part of a shared ‘us’, and, in the words of Pope Francis, we can come together to form an ever wider ‘we’. In our special Refugee Week event, which will take place online on Wednesday 16th June, we will showcase some of the writing and creativity of refugee friends who have taken part in these sessions. It will offer a platform for those who have sought safety in the UK to share their experiences, perspectives and creative work with you, on their own terms.
A creative anthology
As well as this special event, this Refugee Week we will be releasing the work of the Open Writing Space, which has been collated in to an imaginative and inspiring anthology book, ‘Home is a feeling not a place’. At our Refugee Week event, Laila will introduce more about this book, and you will find out how you can buy it, with proceeds going directly towards the work of JRS UK. Our refugee friends’ poems and prose reflections explore a wealth of philosophical, daily and spiritual topics; from identity, and peace, to desires for the future of humanity, and, of course, their experiences of leaving home behind, in search of safety.
It is thanks to your generous donations that JRS is able to continue activities like the Open Writing Space.