Forfutures women’s group exhibits artwork during Refugee Week

Forfutures women’s group, which recently met the Queen, offers women from all backgrounds the chance for a fortnightly get together at the Storyhouse in Chester.

Fourteen families from Syria have come to Chester and Ellesmere Port through the government’s resettlement programme. Forfutures has been providing them with a range of support from linking them into health and education to settling into the community.

The group was set up at the end of 2017 after forfutures identified that many of the women in these families were feeling isolated and not getting out much.

One of the volunteers that helps run the group, and translates for the members when needed, is a former Syrian refugee herself who has built a successful life in the UK.

Meeting regularly for cake and coffee provides an opportunity to share their life experiences, how they are finding living in the UK, and plans for the future.

Now eight months on the group is going from strength to strength and is involved with a variety of community projects.

The group were delighted to meet The Queen and the Duchess of Sussex earlier in June at the Storyhouse in Chester.

Now their latest project has seen the 12 group members create artwork which was displayed at Chester Cathedral for Refugee Week which took place in June.

The exhibition entitled ‘objects lost and objects taken’ showcased their work which expressed their feelings about items lost or taken from them during the war in Syria.

Painting, drawing and cross-stitch were some of the methods the women used to create their art. Some also used their skills to make embroideries, clothes and crocheted items for the exhibition.

The project was led by art psychotherapist Rachel Roberts over several weeks in the run up to Refugee Week.

Rachel said: “The aim of the Art Therapy process was to empower the refugees and to keep them feeling psychologically safe, acknowledging that many had experienced challenging and difficult events in their lives.

“Many of the refugees experimented with painting and drawing for the first time and the exhibition represents their very genuine and wonderful responses.”

She added: “The images produced depict symbolically and metaphorically objects that are cherished, some left behind on their journey, some that are part of their new life in the United Kingdom. Invariably the most important objects represented symbolically are family members.”

Commenting on her experience of the project, one participant said: “The activity was a very nice experience. I love manual work and drawing.”

Another said: “The artwork was a great idea to release our creations. I really appreciate being part of it.”

Laura-Leigh Thompson from forfutures said: “The group is really going from strength to strength and most importantly is helping the refugees feel part of the community and less isolated. We were all really proud of the beautiful artwork the women produced for the exhibition at Chester Cathedral as part of Refugee Week.

“The recent royal visit was the icing on the cake and a dream come true for the group. I know that some of the women had always hoped to meet the Queen once they knew the UK was going to be their new home.”