In our series of reporting on our Courageous Citizens grantees, here’s Sarah Story. She represents Refugee Info Bus, an organisation whose mission is to assist refugees in having access to the rights that people with European passports take for granted. They currently work via two mobile buses in Greece and France, and have a strong Facebook following stretching from Germany to Iraq, Turkey, Afghanistan, Iran and Syria.
With what idea did you apply in the grant call?
“The First Six Months - Our Welcome to Europe,” the idea was that we will create a series of informational videos, a documentary and written report, lead by a team of three refugee volunteers, who will have just arrived as asylum seekers in Greece, the UK and Germany. However, this has changed, slightly upon developing the project and understanding what service users wanted and needed. Instead we have worked with Turkish based, Greek based, German based team members to create artistic information video series instead.
Did your participation in the incubator workshop help you transform your idea into an effective project?
It helped me process our idea and look at ways of being more creative, and encouraged us to engage more with the arts and creative professionals rather than political campaigners or humanitarians.
It also gave me precious time away from the day to day running of our organisation and really process, focus and channel all my concentration on the ideas process - without distractions.
Plus we had lots of great food and drink and made some great friends from all over Europe and the Middle East!
What difficulties did you encounter in realising the first steps of your project [financial, organisational, personal]? How did you overcome those?
It took us a lot longer than we thought for the artwork to be completed. We were working with artists who did not know too much about the UK legal system so visualising some difficult legal processes and systems became far harder.
What was the biggest surprise you did encounter in the project?
We were really delighted but also saddened to find out that some of the people who worked on projects wished that they had been given the asylum information that we had created, earlier. They had faced the consequences of a lack of information and support in their own language - in having their first application for asylum rejected. We found this to be incredibly frustrating. But it also encouraged us to continue our work.
What impact did you generate?
I think our project is now more successful and impactful, and beautiful than we imagined - but that was because we got more people involved that brought their knowedge, passion, skills and needs into the project. It went from being a simple voyeuristic insight into each others struggles to informative and practical artwork! This is why collaboration and teamwork so vital for any piece of work.
Do you see a further development of your project in the future?
YES - we want to create far more videos on complex issues and problems that people seeking asylum face - experimenting with different mediums and artistic styles!
Our work requires long days researching and translating changes in the law. This requires the time, dedication and effort of people with legal skills, language skills and insights of people who have claimed asylum themselves. It also requires cold days in fields, industrial parks, in and around our van, setting up the Wifi, running workshops and being present to answer peoples questions. Crucially, it also requires money.