Creative YOUCreativity is everywhere. Opportunity is not. We are part of the solution. The secret is in our name. Every year Creative Youth Network gives thousands of young people a taste and thirst for the arts and culture and the joy, life-skills and opportunity they bring. But we want more. Creative YOU is our campaign showcasing how we, you and the engaged, emerging and amazing young creatives we support, come together. We want to reveal how, together, we are ambition, quality, cultural democracy and social mobility in action. Every young person deserves the right to access creativity and development opportunities in the creative and cultural industries. It all starts with education. If all young people have access to creative subjects in school, then talented young people from all backgrounds can pursue their passion, develop crucial skills needed in so many industries and improve their wellbeing. 1. Pledge Add your name and join the many people passionate about bringing creativity back into our schools. With all the pledges we’ll be reaching out to headteachers in Bristol and the South West. We hope this will encourage local academies to give more space to creativity in their curriculum. Bristol, being the creative city we know and love, can pave the way for other regions to do the same, showcasing the true value of creativity. PLEDGE 2. Sign up Join us by signing up to our newsletter where we share best practice of how to support young people. sign up 3. Find out more Join us by reading and sharing our CreativeYOU report which shows how our work brings opportunities for creative expression and enables young people to explore their talent, regardless of background or circumstance. Download our Creative YOU report About us Blog Refugees are welcome here – Building Community & support for young refugees and asylum seekers We support young Afghan refugees to make a life here. Many are devastated by what they are seeing happen in their country, to their friends and families. Our thoughts are with them all and we will continue to welcome all those who seek refuge in our city. With the heart-breaking news from Afghanistan, the support we deliver through Welcome Wednesday, our youth project supporting young refugees and asylum seekers, is now more important than ever. As significant events in the Middle East have thrown the plight of refugees into the world news, many of the young people we work with need additional support to process the impact. How we are responding to the Afghanistan crisis and supporting Afghan young people Unaccompanied youths from Afghanistan are the largest group of young refugees within our Welcome Wednesday provision. This has been our response: We first made direct contact with the Afghan young people we are working with to offer support and solidarity in this difficult time. We bought together many of the regular attendees in our Welcome Wednesday session, with the support of a Pashto speaking interpreter. This gave Afghan young people opportunity to come together and talk, to express how they are feeling and their concerns and for us to communicate our support. It is devasting for them to be watching the news and scenes coming from Afghanistan. They are worried for their country, their families and their own immigration applications and talked about the impact that is having on their mental health. Our focus has been supporting those young people to come together to support each other and seek support from staff. We will monitor young people's wellbeing and response to the situation over the coming days and weeks. Young people were able to meet with the Refugee Council Children's Advisor, with the assistance of an interpreter to discuss any individual concerns relating to their immigration process and likely impacts/expected hold ups to Home Office decisions. We are communicating within a network of professionals and organisations that work with young refugees and asylum seekers in the Bristol area to consider and plan how we can best support the Afghan refugees we are working with. We will meet as a partnership in early September. We are going to be meeting with our Young Leaders group to discuss the situation and invite their input into how we respond and can best support young people, and/or take action to support them to have their concerns and voices heard. We will continue to welcome refugees and asylum seekers 11-19 years who arrive in Bristol to our Welcome Wednesday Youth Clubs and individuals referred for one to one support though our Targeted Youth Services. Welcome Wednesdays Welcome Wednesday has been welcoming young refugees and asylum seekers to The Station since 2015. Here, young people often newly arrived in Bristol, are able to meet and connect with other young people with similar experiences and often others who speak their language. It’s a safe space to adapt to Bristol and develop their spoken English in a safe and supportive environment, with people who understand what they’ve been through and some of the challenges they face. Our Welcome Wednesday team consists of a very dedicated team of youth workers and volunteers, a children’s immigration advisor from Refugee Council, and Basement Studio music workers who provide music activities: drumming, guitar and song writing/singing, alongside pool, table tennis, art activities and some social education activities. Activities enable young people to participate and integrate, regardless of any language barriers. Through Welcome Wednesday, young people have access to other support and services, including one to onesupport, creative courses, support with college and job applications, referrals for housing advice and advocacy support, and crisis support, where needed. Despite the challenges of lockdown, the project has continued to grow, responding to the need to provide in-person support to a vulnerable group of young people whose needs have been worsened by the pandemic, many having arrived in the UK during lockdown. Challenges young people face Young people arrive, having fled Afghanistan, Sudan, Eritrea, Syria and other Middle Eastern countries due to conflict, human rights violations, persecution, and poverty. They seeksafety in Europe and the UK, many as unaccompanied children, leaving their family, culture, language and everything they know, to make a long and hazardous journey , often not knowing where they will end up. These journeys can take from a month by lorry, to three or more years via Libya or Europe, before arriving in the UK. Such young people usually suffer from multiple traumas. A few arrive through resettlement schemes and with family members. Once in the UK, unaccompanied children are taken into local authority care, housed with foster carers and enrolled in school or college. They are faced with living with strangers, may or may not have been to school for some time, speak little or no English, and faced with entering the latter years of secondary school, to learn in a different language. We often see mental health decline post-migration. Until then, young people have been in survival mode. Once they arrive in Bristol, they have some space to process their experiences. The impact of trauma can start to surface. Anxieties grow, as the length of time the immigration process begins to take its toll, and young people often report significant difficulties sleeping. Sometimes there’s an initial eagerness to learn English, make friends and try new things. However, living in a constant state of uncertainty, whether you are safe and able to stay here takes an enormous emotional toll, as you try and navigate the unfamiliar services and systems you need to complete an application for asylum and the get the support you need. At our Welcome Wednesday youth club, young people find supportive adults who are welcoming and supportive and provide a safe space for them to come together. This is often a place of respite from everything else going on for them. Increased difficulties due to the pandemic Many of the current Welcome Wednesday members have arrived in the UK during the pandemic. After difficult journeys, they arrived in a country in lockdown, some were quarantined, others not able to start college or to learn English through ESOL classes till Autumn 2021, left with little to occupy their time. Those whose ESOL classes switched to online, struggled with online learning (language and digital barriers) and even those who went into school still received most lessons online. Lockdowns made it more difficult to connect with other people and the services to support them, leading to increased sense of isolation and poor mental health, and immigration processes, interviews, and meeting with solicitors were all held up and have taken longer, with much being put on hold during lockdowns. With young people struggling to engage in our online sessions, we returned to delivering in person sessions at The Station from August 2020, within government guidance. From February we increased provision, running two weekly support groups to accommodate the number of young people accessing the project. From 1st April-30th June 65 different young refugees and asylum seekers accessed the Welcome Wednesday &* Thursday youth club sessions. Eid al Fitr Feast - bringing young people together to celebrate as we started to come out of lockdown In May, with a change in lockdown guidance, we were able to host our first event in more a year, bringing together 45 young people, staff and a small number of parents and carers, for an Eid al Fitr celebration in our courtyard to mark the end of Ramadan, with a sit-down meal. It was an evening of joy for everyone and extra special to see everyone come together in celebration after what's been a difficult year for so many. In the run up we worked with young people in sessions to design the menu of traditional middle Eastern dishes, decorations and music. We worked with the amazing The Mazi Project who catered for the event and bought the young people's menu to life. True to cultural tradition, we sat on the floor on cushions and throws to eat, which was followed by music and traditional Pashtu dancing, initiated by the young people themselves. Following the event we noticed the growth in trust and relationships that investing our effort in supporting young people to celebrate their cultural customs in such a way has generated. Empowering young people to get their voices heard Welcome Wednesday members took part in a roundtable discussion with Thangam Debbonaire, Bristol West MP and Shadow Leader of the House of Commons at the end of March.They were invited to reflect on the last year and discuss how the Covid-19 pandemic has changed socialising, work and studies. We were able to highlight the significant challenges faced by young people struggling with their mental health during lockdown. We raised awareness of the plight of a young person and her father living in asylum dispersal hotel accommodation, the uncertainty they faced and the impact this was having on them. This resulted in an offer of direct help from Thangam's senior case workers. We also engaged young people in Bristol's Mayoral Youth Hustings where young asylum seekers asked the mayoral candidates how they intend to support young people newly arrived in the UK and those living in supported housing schemes for 16–25-year-olds for long periods due to a lack of other suitable housing options. Young people participated in the Bristol Youth Consult 2021, delivered by Bristol City Youth Council members, helping to identify the issues important to young people and voting for the issues to be discussed at a Bristol Youth Voice Conference in November. Again, the need for better mental health support was a theme. Welcome Wednesday members were also invited to attend a Bristol Youth Council Meeting and presentation by Leicester University researcher Dr Sarah Hunt, who presented her findings from a two-year research project "Exploring Service Response to the Mental Health Needs of Refugee Children and Youth – A UK Study”, Sarah A. Hunt (2021). Previous members of Welcome Wednesday took part in this research in 2018 and young people with lived experience we’re able to share their thoughts its terms of the findings and recommendations. Young leaders' participation project In partnership with Bristol Refugee Rights, we have developed a participation project for 13-25 year olds, to support and empower our members and others with lived experience of the asylum process, and/or unsettled immigration status, to speak out about their experiences and to be a voice for change in Bristol. Having completed an initial young leader training programme and introduction to campaigning, the young leaders’ group have started to explore their own and others experiences of living in Bristol, and the things that help or hinder them to thrive as they try to build new lives here. In August, this included an away day to Dean Field Study Centre in the Forest of Dean, hosted by colleagues from BCC's North Families in Focus Team, for a day of team building and a workshop to think through the information they wanted to gather/questions to ask the wider population of young asylum seekers living in Bristol. A dedicated space for young women Welcome Wednesday members are predominately male unaccompanied youths (not all, but most). The perilous journeys young people face to Europe means few young women make this journey. However, with a small group of young women coming along to sessions, we’ve taken steps to develop the provision for young women within our Welcome Thursday sessions (for both accompanied and unaccompanied migrant young women) bringing together young women from Pakistan, Sudan, Eritrea, Syria and Hungary together and providing them with a dedicated space and youth worker, with the option to mix or have their own space. This has been really positive in working to engage and support a very marginalised group of young women and provide the space and opportunity for them able to connect with other young women. This has led to young women feeling more empowered in the space, including a young women’s takeover of the very male dominated pool table. We’ve recruited a previous member of Welcome Wednesdays, a Syrian young woman, as a volunteer to help us develop the girls’ group, offering her unique perspective as a young woman who has previously been a minority within this group/space. We are looking to spread the word about the young women’s group and recruit more young women and invite any interested parties (professionals or young women) to get in touch. New from September We will be welcoming Anna Kalin, CAMHS Therapist from the Talking Allowed and Asylum and Refugee Clinic, to work alongside us in Welcome Wednesday sessions to deliver aspects of the CREATE programme (Coping and Recovering from Experiencing Trauma). Anna will be delivering the CREATE programme through creative and psychoeducational activities. The work we do day in, day out with young asylum seekers and refugees is crucial. When young people face such complex challenges, youth work, building relationships and connecting with others provides them with a lifeline in a new and unfamiliar country. We are one of the very few professionals in these young people's lives who focus on the positive skills and contribution they can make to our society, and empowering them to be their best selves. REFER A YOUNG PERSON Offer your support to young asylum seekers. Make a donation: Please select a donation amount (required) £12 Could give a young carer an evening of fun activities, taking a break from their caring responsibilities £25 Could provide an hour’s specialist support for a young person struggling with their mental health £35 Could cover the cost of food for five sessions for young asylum seekers and refugees Other Set up a regular payment Donate How can we help?