The team of life – narrative and community work by our refugee team

31 August 2017

Experiencing loss and trauma can become the defining aspect of a young person's identity as they arrive in a new country. This is often compounded by the journey and asylum process. Narrative approaches connect young people back to a richer sense of self, of identity, and to the values, stories and people they hold dear which are embodied in a deep sense of their country of origin, family, culture and religion.

The aim is to rekindle hope and to support young people's extraordinary resources to enable them to create a future which honours their past.

This year the Tavistock’s refugee team – including Nsimire Bisimwa, Sherry Rehim, Haben Ghezai, Karen Partridge and the team manager David Amias – collaborated with community organisations to deliver collective narrative projects.

The Team of Life at Arsenal

Team of Life - arsenal shirtsIn partnership with the Arsenal Community Team, run by Samir Singh, the refugee team facilitated a two day workshop called the ‘Team of Life’ in July. This took place at Arsenal Emirates Stadium and the programme was combined with a behind-the-scenes tour, a visit to the Arsenal museum, football training and a variety of team-based activities.

The ‘Team of Life’ uses sporting metaphors to enable young people to deal with difficult life experiences without having to speak directly about them. It involves creating a ‘Team of Life’ where the young people are asked to consider the different positions and roles in a football game, which is used as a metaphor to connect with their own lives and those who are significant to them.

The young people were able to exchange knowledge about ways of ‘tackling’ the problems and the challenges they face in life. Football offers rich metaphor from which to explore personal and collective values. Bringing together talking therapy with a sporting activity connected with their sense of pride and enjoyment and creates continuity with what and who they valued at home.

Using narrative practices, stories of achievement and hope in the face of difficulties  were able to be heard and witnessed. Through linking this to cultural heritage and social history, the young people were able to see their sense of themselves as deeply rooted in the past, present and future. 

The Team of Life at Lords

Struck by the impact of such a brief intervention and honouring the passion that many of the young Afghan clients have for cricket, the refugee team also contacted the community service at Lord’s Cricket Ground, run by Ricky Reynolds and Jayde Ellis.

In a short time the refugee team managed to organise a half day community trip to Lords in August that involved a tour of the grounds, a visit to the Lord’s museum, cricket training with professional coaches, and variety of team-based activities.

The refugee team have arranged to run a two-day Team of Life workshop in collaboration with Lord’s Cricket Ground over the winter season.

By running the ‘Recipes of Life’ and ‘Team of Life’ in environments that many of the young people connected with more easily facilitated the emergence of empowering stories.

As facilitators, we noticed that the young people were able to take risks in talking about themselves, the past, and their future hopes. We have learnt a great deal from those who have taken part in these projects, from learning to gut a fish to the skills needed to dribble a ball. Through this work we have been able to witness and honour each other’s culture, create lasting memories of hope and strengthening resources to create more positive identities.

We would like to thank Samir Singh from the Arsenal Community Team and Ricky Reynolds and Jayde Ellis from Marylebone Community Cricket for making these projects possible and their fantastic support in helping us run the projects.

We would also like to thank and Gillian Hughes and Nsimire Bisimwa who originally set up this community work in the Refugee Team and have worked hard to ensure it remains alive.  

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Refugee care

Delivered with the University of Essex, this is the only course of its kind that includes a placement within an organisation related to working...

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Recipes of life – narrative and community work by our refugee team

Experiencing loss and trauma can become the defining aspect of a young person's identity as they arrive in a new country. This is often compounded...
Refugee service

Provides culturally sensitive support to refugees and asylum-seeking children, young people and families in north London.