Project Salam: A welcome for refugee families

Lisa MillardBeacon Family Services, Family Relationships

Click here to read in Arabic.

Little Amal is a young, refugee puppet currently ‘walking’ across Europe to highlight journeys of refugees. Each time this 3.5 metre tall puppet enters a new country or city the question, ‘How will you welcome her?,’ is posed.

In Italy a feast of recipes welcomed her, in Turkey illuminated lanterns created a path of light for Amal to follow and in Germany ‘star stones’ were created by children to represent the stars in the sky, the same stars that can be seen in Syria and in the skies wherever Amal travels. These acts of welcome ensure that Amal feels seen and safe as she travels across unfamiliar landscapes. These are some of the ways Amal is being welcomed, but how are welcoming refugee families into our communities? 

Beacon Family Services is welcoming refugee families from Syria with an invitation to play. The therapeutic play activities we offer as part of Project Salam can take place in the home, a local venue or Beacon Family Services’ own therapy base in North Birmingham.  Playing together as a family is an ideal way to re-connect with each other and to create shared moments of playful connection and enjoyment. Families and friends often play together informally and formally starting when a parent/primary carer and baby play together. In these exchanges, facial expressions, movements, gestures, sounds and songs help parents/primary carers and babies connect with each other.

These improvised, playful interactions are an important way through which an attachment is formed between the baby and their parent/primary carer giver. These early attachments influence the way a baby’s brain develops and ultimately impacts on the way in which the baby grows up as a toddler, child, then an adult. They form their experiences with the world around them and are their foundation for relationships with people throughout their life.  Connecting with others and experiencing positive relationships is important for our well-being throughout our lives.

Refugee families will likely have experienced extreme stress and trauma on their route to and through unfamiliar countries. Whilst refugee’s immediate needs such as health, housing and education are being met by our partner organisations, like the re-settlement programme here in Birmingham, Beacon Family Services is offering Project Salam as a way for families to manage stress and reconnect through therapeutic play based activities. The combination of structure, nurture, challenge and engagement within the play activities we offer, ensures that the experience is a safe and enriching one that all the family can access. Physical and sensory elements are threaded throughout our vast range of activities. 

Play can unite, soothe, support healing, strengthen connections and celebrate a sense of togetherness. Our invitation to play is extended to refugee families arriving in Birmingham, we welcome you all.

Project Salam is a fully-funded programme of support for refugee families. This support includes:

An interpreter

Up to 12 play based family and parent support sessions

A pack of resources and activities to use at home between sessions

For more information about Beacon Family Service’s Project Salam, call 0121 270 0593 or contact peppy@beaconservices.org.uk. To learn more about Beacon’s work with families, visit their website beaconservices.org.uk.