Taking a closer look at the latest Borderlands project that seeks to guide refugees in the right direction
Among a lively drop-in centre, English and Maths lessons, and a mentoring-project-to-be, Borderlands has been busy with another new initiative. My Future is a six month pilot project delivered by a partnership of charities that provide information to refugees living in Bristol. It involves workshops and ongoing support for refugees to understand and navigate through the welfare and state systems in the UK with a specific focus on Bristol. It was designed to empower participants and give them a chance to overcome the barriers they often face as newcomers.
The course follows a four week thematic process beginning with housing, then onto benefits/grants, money management, ending with employment. It has been designed to be most useful to those refugees who have recently attained status and may be facing imminent challenges. My Future centralises on the inclusivity of community services and includes sessions from Bristol City Council, Ashley Community Housing, Talking Money, Pennywise, Cash Pointers, and The-Society. With the intention of running six courses, My Future is expected to reach at least 60 refugees in Bristol through Borderlands’ referral-based system with organisations around Bristol.
As we approach the halfway point of the project, the outcomes of My Future can already be seen and felt. The participants who have completed the course are given the resources and knowledge to better understand their personal situation; a ‘Toolkit’ is handed to them at the end of the course with everything that was covered in the course. A personal point of reference is bridged between these refugees and crucial social services with whom they may not meet otherwise. A micro-community within the course also seems to establish itself among the participants through shared experiences, differences, and language translation. Most fascinating of all, despite the infancy of the My Future project, there is already a trickle effect of knowledge that has occurred between all those involved. From our partner organisations to the interpreters and volunteers, it is clear that the participants are not the only ones benefiting from My Future. The friendly and helpful nature of the course has formed some kind of reciprocity for everyone involved; there is something to be learned from each person in the room. Through My Future, there is a valuable and progressive sense of accountability that has been created between those seeking help and those providing it.