Since the very early days of Boaz, we've offered a range of activities for people who live in Boaz accommodation. Over the years these have included trips away, theatre visits, exercise classes, arts based workshops (from sewing and glass painting to screen printing and costume design), English classes and visits to local places of interest including National Parks, theatre, cinema, museums and galleries. Many of these activities have been led and supported by volunteers- we really couldn't do it without them!
Several years ago we developed our programme of activities in a more intentional way, using the NEF 5 Ways to Well-being model and Boaz Life was born! This model lists 5 actions which, if done on a regular basis, have been shown to improve personal well-being. The 5 actions are:
- Connect (building relationships with others)
- Be active (physical activities)
- Take notice (being intentionally mindful)
- Keep learning (trying new things and developing skills)
- Give (doing something for others, e.g. through volunteering)
Our Boaz Life programme is developed by our client support team through conversations and feedback from clients. The programme varies from month to month and year to year, for example sometimes we've been lucky enough to be offered free or reduced price access to an activity. Other times we may have secured some funding to develop new activities.
In the past, Boaz Life was specifically for clients whose asylum applications had been refused. The majority of our clients in this situation can't access any formal education or employment and obviously have no money to pay for activities or even the basic clothing or equipment for example trainers or a cagoule.
However as we've worked more closely with our refugee clients over the last year or so, we've come to recognise that some of them struggle just as much to find balance in their lives, to experience different places, and activities. Sometimes this might be due to mental or physical health issues or confidence. Sometimes it could be because of language. Sometimes it's time- if someone is working two jobs and trying to study English, it might be hard to commit to a 6 week course somewhere. And money of course is often an issue too. For these reasons, we've started to widen our Boaz Life programme to include our clients who have been granted refugee status and so far this is going really well!
We've recently had several clients taking part in the GROW gardening project at the Whitworth Gallery, and it was lovely this week hearing one of our clients, Janet, share her memories of learning about gardening back at school in her home country.
Our activities are usually advertised to all of our clients although sometimes support workers will specifically invite people who they think would especially enjoy or benefit from the activity. People are able to sign up for activities they are interested in and then we set up text reminders to help people remember! We don't always get things right. Sometimes we've planned activities during Ramadan or times when Orthodox clients are fasting, so many of our clients aren't able (or keen) to take part. On other occasions, the weather can put people off, and sometimes things which we might think are a brilliant idea just aren't that popular with our clients!
The benefits of Boaz Life are huge. On countless occasions clients have shared how valuable it is to be able to do something different and switch off from thinking about their situation for a few hours. Others have enjoyed getting to know other Boaz clients who understand their situation and maybe speak the same language. Others, who may have been used to working and living a full life in their home country have appreciated the opportunities to discover new activities or places that they can visit, free of charge. You can read more about the impact of Boaz Life towards the end of this newsletter, in Roza'a story.
Although we want to continue to develop our programme of activities, we're sometimes restricted for different reasons (depending on the activity):
- Money: we might need to pay for bus fares to meet at the office, travel costs to get to the place or activity, entrance tickets, room hire, refreshments... multiply that by 10 or as many as 30 clients and it soon adds up. We don't currently have any specific funding for Boaz Life, so we're running it on a shoestring!
- Space: we have brilliant facilities here at our office, including two multi purpose activity rooms, but they aren't always available at the right time, especially if we want to run a programme over several weeks. Matching room suitability and availability with a potential course leader and client availability can be challenging!
- Staff time: it can sometimes take a surprising amount of time to organise activities if we are taking the lead- liaising with different venues, suppliers / activity leaders, producing accessible information, reminding clients through individual phone calls, texts or emails... Most of our support workers are part time so time
Having said that, if you've read this and you have any ideas or connections that you think might be helpful for Boaz Life (ideally for after the summer, as we head towards autumn and winter), please do get in touch! You can email us on [email protected] (please mention Boaz Life specifically in your email!).