Over the past 3 years we have been fortunate to secure funding from Henry Smith Charity, Tudor Trust, Comic Relief and Devon Community Foundation for this project aimed at bringing together women from different ethnicities to work on common agendas and to enhance community understanding. This project has several different strands, and is due to finish in its current format in August 2013.
The first strand was the BME women's English conversation class, which was taught informally and open to any BME woman who required help and guidance to improve their spoken communication skills when English is not their first language. The group was run in a relaxed, informal and welcoming style and women were encouraged to consider different social situations such as shopping, visiting the doctor, cooking with western ingredients, and coping with the complex needs of small children. It was attended by 20 to 30 women from many different backgrounds, including Middle Eastern countries, Mainland China and Africa. Funding for this strand of the project has since expired.
Exploring Cultures through Art
The second strand of the project is undertaken in partnership with the Theatre Royal, encouraging women to explore their cultures through creative writing and drama. This group is called Dovetails, and consists mainly of women from refugee or Asylum Seeking backgrounds. Over 35 women have attended sessions and here are 14 children registered for the associated crèche. The group has helped women to form connections and support structures within the community; the project is multicultural and multi faith and has become a safe space in which sometimes traumatic life experiences can be shared, increasing the self confidence and self esteem of participants.
Other partnership projects include working with the Plymouth City Museum in the creation of textile arts, again with the aim of encouraging women to share their cultures through artistic mediums. The group is predominantly local women with approximately 10% BME. The intention of this group is to break down barriers and develop better understanding of diversity in the City. There are over 40 women on the register and each session is attended by, on average 30.
Volunteers and Support
The project has also offered supervised placements to social work students, as it a valuable learning experience which is appreciated by the University and helps to ensure that future workers are well informed around the issues and difficulties the BME and ASR communities are faced with. The worker has also taken on training to enable her to become a Practice Teacher for students.