verd de gris have been working on health and well-being projects for over 15 years. In Jan ’16 we were successful in winning a commission, working with Super Slow Way in Blackburn, to share our creative working method with group of carers using BwD Carers Service. The commission gave us the chance to show how our creative methodology could, with support and close attention, be used to help volunteers deliver their own participatory sessions with other local carers.

We ran a programme of workshops with a small, focused group of volunteers introducing them to our combined arts methodology. We also ran advocacy sessions in the local community, and our volunteers spoke and performed at a number of health and well-being events.

A key element of the project was to try and address the issue of mental health within local BME communities. Mental health within the Muslim community is often not talked about or addressed – there is a culture of ‘shame’ attached to it that makes intervention and treatment very difficult. At our final showcasing event in Jan ’17, one of our volunteers Ruqayya, a young Muslim woman, spoke with great passion about this matter. The following discussion prompted the mayor Cllr Hussain Aktar to respond, highlighting the importance of projects like this in helping to address stigma and break down barriers. Cllr Hussain said: ‘Mental health in our community needs to be talked about and addressed, particularly around the idea of ‘shame’.

“When the project started many of the volunteers were also dealing with their own problems which affected their well-being and quality of life. The ‘emotional healing’ that took place for the group members has been profound: “I went through life feeling like I should hold on to safety bars and not trusting others, constructing huge walls in the process. What I know I have overcome is letting go of the past and the barriers that stopped me from just being who I am and chose to be. In allowing myself to let go has made me feel free and stronger and to be an inspiration to others in all I have achieved.” Ruqayya

Have a watch of this short film featuring interviews with participants and Sharon and Jeff from verd de gris arts.

Key Outcome
We are pleased that the Carers Service has now picked up on this way of working and are supporting a 6-week programme for other local carers, with our volunteers running the course:

“I see the course as a new, fresh approach to empowering vulnerable groups of people, who’s mental and physical wellbeing has been impacted due to various conditions and situations that people find themselves in life.  In this service its due to the fact that caring for a loved one has an impact on the informal carer.  The fact that the project enables carers to reach their inner self-conscious and feelings, helps to heal and build confidence, will empower carers to deal with the difficulties of their role and will provide a positive outlook in their lives.” Kulsum Chishti, (Activity & Volunteer Worker) BwD Carers Service

from the Poetry Book launch celebration with our wonderful volunteers at BwD Carers Service, Kingsway 26th January 2017

Here is a photo of the Through the Door ‘Poetry Box’ we made as part of our commission – it contains the poetry and artwork of volunteers Ruqayya, Zeenat, Riaz, Catherine, Riffat and Rafia. It really is a remarkable body of work.

This project was supported by Arts Council England and its partners through the Super Slow Way initiative.

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