Calling Scotland home: the Making It Home Project
“My mother always used to tell us, especially me, to follow our footsteps. [...] She always said to us: do not mistreat anybody even if you don’t know them. You don’t know – tomorrow it might be you needing help. Wherever you go, be friendly and people will welcome you.
When I was coming to the UK, my mother told me to practice what she has told me. She said I would never regret it. I’ve made many friends and they have helped me and treated me like a daughter or mother or sister. For seven years living in destitution I have never regretted being here. God bless the people of Scotland.”
This is Patricia’s story of home. It’s the first time she’s told it publicly, although it’s been over seven years since she first came to Scotland as a refugee. Patricia is one of a group of extraordinary women involved in Making It Home – a public engagement project run by the Refugee Survival Trust and funded by Creative Scotland – designed to raise awareness about the many different versions of “home” that exist in Scotland.
Arriving in a new place as a refugee or asylum seeker is hard. You have to get used to a new climate, a new culture and often a new language. You have to learn how to navigate a new city, looking out all the while for opportunities to get involved in your local community. Arguably, this process is particularly difficult for women, who face a different set of social expectations to men. Many of the women of Making It Home came to Scotland having been separated from loved ones, with no support network in this country to rely on. Making It Home aims to provide this support, by bringing them together with local British women and creating a safe space for them to talk, read, discuss and create.
The project brought on board refugee, asylum seeking and migrant women from the Maryhill Integration Network, a vibrant community outreach project based in Maryhill in Glasgow. The Maryhill group was “twinned” with a group of locals from Women Supporting Women, one of the many vital services provided by the Pilton Community Health Project in Edinburgh. Making It Home brought together many nationalities and cultures: the women hailed from places like Algeria, Kosovo, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Iraq and Ghana, as well as Scotland, England and Ireland. What could all these very different women possibly have in common? The answer soon became clear: they all wanted to tell their stories of home.
Talking about “home” isn’t always easy for people who have lost their homes, or been forced to leave them.
However, talking about “home” isn’t always easy for people who have lost their homes, or been forced to leave them. The women from Pilton knew this just as well as the women from Maryhill: they too had all found themselves homeless at some point in their lives. In order to start these tricky conversations, the women read well-known poems about home – by poets like Edwin Morgan, Jackie Kay and George McDonald – then discussed them together.
They each kept a journal-scrapbook, where they recorded their responses to the poems, and wrote about the hopes, fears, ideas and dreams they associated with home. Some of them began to write “home poems” of their own; others created beautiful drawings, collages or maps of home. By the project’s mid-point, the women were all sharing memories and stories, meeting up to eat and talk, and offering one another help and support. One of the women from Pilton, Elaine, wrote this about her progress:
“Since I joined [Making It Home] last October I have come quite far learning new things like poetry... and meeting new people from other countries. It has built up my confidence and through it I have made new friends. I never used to go out but I am a different person now and I know the project has helped me... I had knee surgery and got support from everybody in the group.”
The women’s stories were too good not to share, so the Making It Home team challenged them to spread the word. With a little help from Glasgow-based media co-op, the women took up the gauntlet and, in small film-making teams, set to work adapting their poems, the material from their journal-scrapbooks and the ideas that came up during their many discussions. Many of them felt overwhelmed: this was the first time they’d picked up a film camera in their lives. However, with a huge amount of support from one another, they created four beautiful short films in a total of just forty shooting hours. Each one takes a very different look at what it means to call Scotland “home,” and each one is surprising and thought-provoking in its own way.
To find out more about Making It Home, and to watch our “Making of Making It Home” documentary, visit www.makingithome.net