Ahead of #RefugeeWeek, we met up with Play for Progress, a London-based charity that delivers therapeutic and educational music programmes for children who are victims of conflict, to talk about their grass-roots community building charity.
Refugee Week (18th – 24th June) is a UK wide programme of arts, cultural and educational events and activities that celebrates the contribution of refugees to the UK and promotes better understanding of why people seek sanctuary. We are hosting two events with Play for Progress this week.
Alyson and Anna founded Play for Progress in 2014 to support the world’s most vulnerable community; unaccompanied children fleeing overwhelming violence in their countries and seeking refuge.
The complex emotions that those escaping conflict experience are inconceivable to any of us fortunate
enough to have lived in safety. Imagine that you're faced with the task of travelling on foot, thousands of miles to the UK. Imagine you've survived being abandoned in the Sahara by smugglers, you narrowly avoiding drowning in the Mediterranean, you were held captive by a terrorist organisation and escaped unlawful detention—now imagine doing it alone...as a child.
Being a teenager is hard enough before you add the severe trauma of such a journey, or any of the
countless obstacles they have to conquer once they arrive in the UK. Unaccompanied minor refugees find themselves alone in a strange country, without the use of their mother tongue, often struggling with PTSD and placed in foster care or youth hostels. Their entrance into education and safe social spaces is delayed or denied and the process of gaining asylum is arduous, lengthy, and constantly in flux/impossible to predict.
Tell us a little bit about what Play for Progress do
Play for Progress is a London-based charity that delivers therapeutic and educational music programmes for young people impacted by conflict to help them avoid isolation and engage with, learn through, and explore their capabilities in music and the arts. Our weekly Croydon-based music programme is available to the hundreds of unaccompanied minor refugees and asylum seekers who are associated with the Refugee Council UK’s Children’s Section, and guarantees that these vulnerable young people can rely on a close-knit community of allies who use music as a tool for social change, self-expression, team building, and personal development.
Every student enrolled in our programme is given access to a curriculum of music workshops, instrumental lessons, external performance opportunities, mentorship and job training along with creative arts therapy and group outings. PFP offers students ways to connect with the diverse and overwhelming city that is London; to enhance their language, leadership and team-building skills, to release tensions, forge supportive friendships, and find respite in a safe space while developing their own creative potential. It is through running this programme and regularly supporting our allies in other refugee networks around the globe that we are actively working to strengthen the connections within and appreciation of our diverse global community.
Sounds like a great programme. What are you working on at the moment?
We are in the process of establishing a centre dedicated to creative education and the arts that will be specifically for use by unaccompanied child refugees in South London. The centre will help to combat their isolation, and lack of access to education. This centre will unite the arts industry as a whole in solidarity with this vulnerable community (as well as local vulnerable teens), bringing together music, theatre, physical art, creative writing, dance, social impact awareness, educational resources, and more.
Consider what this proposal represents: providing the resources and space one needs to access education, explore passions, and practice dedication in a way that one can hold on to one's humanity.
These exceptional young people are trying desperately to do just that, but against all odds.
How can we help?
We’d love h Club members to volunteer in some of our programmes by sharing their experience in the creative industry, offering mentoring and support to what could be our next top talent. We also accept donations of instruments, funds and resources such computers, music stands. If you’d like to find out more visit our website.
For more information on Refugee Week and how to get involved, visit http://refugeeweek.org.uk/