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  • Writer's pictureSarah Taal

Akoko Isinmi - Relaxation Time

We are starting a self-care project improving the space we currently have for women, and make it matter more. Women we support have experienced varying degrees of violence and exploitation. We help women to access their rights and entitlements, but at times what they need is not available, for example getting the right to reside, or safe housing, they need to manage and cope with what is available in the short term. We are developing our service to alleviate women's anxieties. Giving people therapeutic support will better enable women to hear and process information we are giving at our drop in so they address issues at the earliest available stage.

We know this work is needed as women we support are diagnosed with depression and anxiety by their GP's, they struggle to access counselling and support, talking to us about this. We now have travel costs for women to access counselling and acupuncture.

Over the last year a local acupuncturist, Gaynor Hollis has provided free sessions to women who are particularly vulnerable. The feedback we have is very positive, all women who accessed sessions felt better. The managed to sleep, to process their situation and access help. We are now able to make a contribution to the acupunctrist's session costs, providing regular appointments, 72 over the year, 6 per woman, which treats 2 women every 2 month.

We have been offered two free counselling sessions from an experienced psychotherapist, Jill Morgan from Moseley Counselling, there is already a waiting list (sessions offered from Sept 19), but women have expressed difficulties in being able to travel there, they also need interpreters. We now have these costs.

Ge are going to have wellbeing group sessions every 2 months, addressing mental, sexual & physical health, facilitation and knowledge will be from Birmingham MIND, a retired GP and creative sessions from community artists. We know from talking to our community through feedback collection that when they feel supported, listened to, and able to meet they have less stress and are more able to cope and move forward with their problems.

Our advocates and volunteers meet monthly to talk about how they want to progress the project, and get training. In July we had a speaker visit on self care, those who journeyed through the asylum system talked about how hearing peoples struggles reminded them of past destitution and abuses. They wanted a safe space to discuss this and find ways to manage their feelings.They will have therapeutic support to protect them from vicarious trauma every moth with experienced counsellor Narinder, from Reach Counselling.

This project will run for 12 months, bringing people together, building strong relationships between women in our community, so they can take that strength into their wider communities. We will continue to get guidance from our steering group made up mainly of women with lived experience of migration, refuge and settlement in the UK.

We want to learn if this approach can be sustainable in the long term and whether we build a therapeutic project into our work. We will measure the impact of this work by recording how many women attend sessions, how often they return to get continuing support, and use a wellbeing wheel to ask them if they find it enables them to be stronger.

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