When our future visions get chained by our wounded pasts

A person with no vision for their future will stay trapped in their past. That’s what we invited people to explored in our last community gathering at Arts Lab on July 1st 2017, and what we witnessed on the day was rather shocking!

Every month Integr8 UK organises a community dat to bring refugees, asylum seekers and other UK residents together at Darlington to connect, share fun times and delicious food from all-around the world, and participate in activities where they learn something new about themselves and others or develop a new skill.

This time had 53 people from Britain, Syria, Venzuella, Congo, Iraq, Egypt and Turkey who came from Plymouth, Totnes, Darlington, Paignton and Dawilish. We started the day with a relaxing nature walk at Dartinton’s beautiful gardens, we played games facilitated by Saif Ali , then we had a picnic potluck where people shared with others the foods they prepared at home. Then we ended the day by exploring our future visions of who we want to become and how we see our future life unfolding as part of our communities in Britain.

Some people found it easier to connect with who they are and what they want regardless of where they live, but for people from Syria, they found that difficult, almost as if not being part of that land has taken away part of who they are. Their identities and vision struggled to have shapes, colours or words that don’t have ‘Syria’ as country, concept, culture or experience in them.

They were struggling to move on with life and start letting go of that deeply rooted connection with all what is associated with that land.

when people finished their drawings, everyone stood and explained what they meant for them as individuals and as groups. I was translating to everyone from Arabic to English and vice versa, and I was chocking with my tears all the way through. One 9-year old girl drew two hearts; on one side on the paper she drew one heart that is full shape where she wrote above it ‘I love my country, I’m proud of my country, and I want to go back to my country’ then on the other side of the paper she drew a broken heart and wrote on top ‘But wait, there is nothing left in my country, it is all gone!’

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Below are pictures form the day and a poem written by Clare Lehovsky that was inspired by what people said about their paintings.


In class we were asked to draw a picture

Of whatever was our vision to nurture

We drew a house, tree and shining sun

Surrounded by the people we love

Colourful food, colourful tables,

Listening to old Syrian fables,

That was the dream that we once had

Now it’s to the sea and a helping hand

The flats of Damascus are no more,

I miss my country and what I saw,

Now England’s green and grassy land

Surrounds us like a protective band

The wind’s said Plymouth’s now our home,

The sea shows us where we can grow,

People are different but our blood’s the same

So let’s try and make a new name

I miss my children, those I left behind,

Would love to go back but it’s no longer kind,

Peace would be there if we could unite

But the boats are there and the future’s bright.

Clare Lehovsky