Chichester charities mark Refugee Week with special exhibition

Sanctuary in Chichester and Children on the Edge joined forces for Refugee Week to put on a special ‘immersive experience’.

Friday, 2nd July 2021, 1:21 pm

The We Cannot Walk Alone exhibition at One-O-Four the Hornet, the home of Revelation Family Church, last weekend (June 18-20) attracted people of all ages from across the area.

Visitors viewed art created by refugees, wrote messages of welcome on a huge blackboard display and recorded messages of support to be shared with refugee children in Bangladesh.

Visitors were encouraged to add their fingerprints to a jasmine flower mural, the idea of a Syrian refugee in Chichester who explained how refugees have to give their fingerprints to cross borders or enter places like the UK.

The Interactive Exhibition at One-0-Four. Photo by Liz Fawkes

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Ben Wilkes, from Children on the Edge, said: “Many visitors told us that they often hear about refugee situations abroad on the news, and also the plight of refugees closer to home, but don’t link the two.

“They described how the exhibition helped them understand the journey as a whole.

“We’re glad our event was able to give some insight into what life is like for refugees both in Chichester and abroad in the many refugee camps that we work in.”

Visitors reading about Children on the Edge projects to support refugees abroad. Photo by Liz Fawkes

A full-sized, furnished tent was constructed in the entrance, to show the type of homes built by Syrian refugees in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon.

Visitors were able to learn about how Children on the Edge supports two refugee programmes in Lebanon and Uganda, supported by the players of People’s Postcode Lottery, and how they support displaced people from Myanmar in both Kachin State and Bangladesh.

Personal stories of refugees supported by Children on the Edge projects were shared for people to read.

The exhibition highlighted the journey that many refugees take to find safety in the UK and wanted to show what life is like for them here in Chichester, while celebrating the richness they are bringing to the community.

Writing messages of welcome for refugees in Chichester on the chalkboard wall. Photo by Liz Fawkes

Gemma Driver, from Sanctuary in Chichester, said: “The refugee and asylum seekers we support in Chichester often arrive in great need, having lost everything and suffered extreme trauma.

“Sanctuary in Chichester are committed to welcoming them and helping them to survive before supporting them to integrate and thrive in this area.

“Our refugee friends were incredibly generous in their support for the ‘We Cannot Walk Alone’ exhibition; sharing their artwork with us to display, cooking hundreds of delicious pastries and other treats to offer visitors and volunteering their time to help host the event and explain exhibits to visitors.

“The exhibition felt like a real community effort and it was wonderful for everyone to be a part of that.”

Replica refugee tent, similar to those built by Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Photo by Liz Fawkes

Many refugee families came down to contribute refreshments and see their artwork on display.

On World Refugee Day last Sunday, refugee women from Chichester were treated to facials from Sep Aesthetic throughout the day.

Some of the artwork displayed depicted the perilous journey many refugees take by boat to find safety.

Other pieces of art drawn by children included beautiful landscapes, alongside more troubling images of the conflict and trauma they sought refuge from in Syria and beyond.

Ben said: “We were delighted to see so many people join us for this special exhibition over the weekend.

“The event provided the perfect opportunity to connect local people with the many refugee families who are living in Chichester by showcasing their artwork and providing a space to chat and share experiences.”

We Cannot Walk Alone was part of a wider series of events taking place in Chichester for Refugee Week, a UK-wide festival celebrating the contributions, creativity and resilience of refugees and people seeking sanctuary.

Refugee Week is a platform for people who have sought safety in the UK to share their experiences, perspectives and creative work on their own terms.

A socially distanced screening of the award-winning film For Sama took place last Saturday evening and was a great success.

Complimentary sparkling wine was provided by Wiston Estate and Roger Pask, of Sanctuary in Chichester, gave a talk on the theme of the film – that every person can make a difference.