18th December 2023

Sampad and the Pride Face Project

The Pride Face project is a collaboration between Journey LGBT+ Asylum Group, Sampad and SHOUT Festival. Alexandra Taylor, Director of Journey LGBT+ Asylum group, wrote a blog post about the group and the project.

The Journey LGBT+ Asylum Group offers support and befriending to LGBT+ refugees and asylum seekers in the West Midlands. Run entirely by volunteers, we hold regular group meetings, both online and in person, giving members a chance to connect and feel part of a ‘rainbow family’.

Journey members face a lot of challenges. As well as navigating the UK’s asylum system, many have endured a lifetime of prejudice and discrimination in their home countries, so struggle to live ‘out and proud’. Tight finances, language barriers and mental health issues are major contributors to feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Joining the group enables members to make friends and develop a sense of community. The group also offer one-to-one support, lending a non-judgemental listening ear, and can signpost members to expert sources of practical help, such as legal services, housing services, counselling, food banks and clothes banks.

The Pride Face project is part of the wider programme of activities – opportunities for members to get out of the house, and out of their own heads, by going on walks, cycle rides, museum and theatre visits, and participating in creative projects.

The creative director of Pride Face is wellness facilitator Ash Mukherjee. In collaboration with visual artist Kiera Saunders and development coach Darren Abrahams, Ash has led participants through a series of wellness and theatre workshops, exploring themes of safety, and inclusion, using tools such as laughter, art, movement and journalling. It culminated in a sharing event, where members showed their work to an audience of invited guests.

I’ve seen first hand how beneficial this play, creativity and laughter has been for Journey Group members. Ash created a wonderfully safe space where everyone is seen and valued, and where they feel free to express themselves without fear or judgement. This has had a huge impact on their self esteem.

Feedback comments have included:

“I felt so safe and happy in today’s workshop.”

“I’ve gained valuable insights from the management and balance of mind, body, and soul. Learning how to create and manage this equilibrium is truly impactful.”

“It gave me more light on how to overcome our difficult days. Our Saturday sessions are like mind therapy.”

“Yesterday’s session has impacted me in a way I never thought possible.”

This is the second year that Sampad has offered group members the chance to take part in a creative project, and I very much hope we get to run more projects together in the future. On behalf of the Journey group, I’d like to extend a huge thank you to the Sampad team for overseeing the project, and to MAC for hosting it.

Journey LGBT+ Asylum Group is currently looking for volunteers to join the friendly team. If you’d like to help support LGBT+ people making a new life here in the UK, visit the website for more information.