HOPE NOT HATE – An intercultural project

Over a 3-month period verd de gris arts were able to run activity sessions for local women. These sessions were open to women from across the diverse communities of Calderdale – all ages and backgrounds were made welcome. We used a central location to make the sessions as accessible as possible and backed up the physical meetings with a WhatsApp support group – to allow the women to keep in touch and share positive news and stories, about their circumstances and their thoughts about current events.

The physical sessional work was rooted in creative activities designed to bring a sense of community + solidarity to each group meeting. Poetry, song and visual art all combined to allow the women to express themselves and share their thoughts on life and the issues that matter to them. There is a particular accent in these sessions on ideas around community and social cohesion – a development of greater understanding around tolerance across communities + intercultural opportunities for local women and girls.

What’s the best thing about the project and what it has meant to them?

This project is all about developing understanding of others – and through this, reflecting on one’s own circumstances. It is about forging new relationships, meeting new people, and appreciating that we all have the power to impact on local issues, and promote positive social change.

Advocacy / Active Citizenship

Many of the women associated with this project work have become active citizens – taking the lead in a range of local and regional project work on the back of their involvement with Verd de gris arts. This has included working with and supporting local service agencies, high profile cultural venues, and health and well-being initiatives, e.g.:

Three women were invited to sit on the ‘Being Well Together’ design group – informing ideas for local commissioners / NHS such as helping to create four short videos commissioned by the NHS trust and Calderdale MBC to promote health checks for people on the Severe Mental Illness Register.

There is never any obligation on participants to move into active social roles like this – some women take advantage of the weekly sessions and that’s it, because they have taken what they needed. Others however, feel enlivened and impassioned by this journey, wanting to give something back to others within their community.

Here are some thoughts and reflections form the women themselves:

This Group is the the platform where we breakdown down barriers
no colour, creed, race, cultural, faith stands in our way.
I see and will continue to see others as humans!
I have no right to judge, stereotype and label others.
We work together to promote unity, diversity and humanness by sharing our experience bravely, courageously and opening up to show we are all the same until society starts to pollute our perceptions.

From Saalihah

This Group is the light in the darkness
Those sessions are not just sessions
They provide us with more than just creativity
They embrace us with:
And Hope

After the lockdown
I struggled to reconnect with society
My thoughts were anxiety ridden
My soul was tired and all hope had been diminished
Crushed by the four walls we were confined to
By the pressure of home-schooling
and the  fear of Covid and going back to the new NORM

Meeting up with this group again
Was like going home
A place of safety, love and comfort
They have reignited my passion for life
Given me the drive to keep moving forward
And hope that the world is beautiful,  despite all the hardships.

I will always be truly grateful to Sharon, Verd de Gris and all my sisters
For supporting me to find myself.

Without this group I would have NO voice.

From Sam G

“This Group has been a lifeline. Knowing I have the support of the women in the group every Friday keeps me going through the week, gives me something to look forward to. Being able to lose myself in creativity helps me to process the difficult thoughts and feelings I have to manage, helps me to ground myself and listen to what my inner self is trying to tell me. I’ve often been surprised by what the writing we’ve done tells me is going through my mind on a subconscious level. Tuning in to myself for a while, giving myself time for me, helps me to stay positive and refreshes me for the week ahead. Having a group of women always at your back, with whom you can feel connected without having to tell your story unless you want to, really helps.”

From Helen

Coming together with this group is like being in one big family.
Lockdown left people feeling lonely isolated and frightened.
When this group got back together face to face it was as if we’d never been apart. We just fit together like a glove. Or a comfy blanket that wraps its self around you in an enormous hug.
I can’t be without Sharon and all my beautiful ladies.
I need this connection so much.
Especially at this time of the year when the hurt from being estranged from my children and grandchildren.
Overwhelms me.
Our group is better than any pill.
Who needs pills !!!when you have these women healing you.
I owe my life to this group. This is my safe place and we all support one another.
I have come a long way after six years of being in groups with Sharon and verd de gris.
I was lost but now I’ve found me.
A human being,
A women who now has a voice. And is no longer afraid to use it.

From Theresa

This group means a lot to me. When we had lockdown, it was terrible, very hard for me. Not having an up to date phone, no social media, because I can’t read or write. I found it very depressing, a lot of anxiety. Felt lonely, felt like I were locked up, horrible. But when we were back on, it was nervous but exciting, that I was meeting people, people like myself most of all. I suppose we’ve all got different things, but we are all the same when we go in the group.

Someone that had nothing in their lives to achieve what I’ve achieved since I’ve been coming to verd de gris, you can’t beat it. I wish we could work with a lot more people, because I know out in this wold there are a lot more people who need it as well as I do.

From Lora