A story by MECOPP
MECOPP organised a programme of short breaks for carers, and those they care for, from the Gypsy/Traveller community in Scotland.
These culturally appropriate breaks promoted positive wellbeing, reduced isolation and increased knowledge about carer services in local communities.
What Creative Companions did
Over the last we have organised three residential short breaks, in Perth and Kinross and Newtonmore (two lasting one night and one lasting two nights), and four day events in Perth, Edinburgh, Benderloch and Dundee. The programme for each event was based on participant feedback including a mix of new activities and popular ones from previous events.
A varied and exciting programme combined therapeutic activities and others designed to enable participants to have fun and relax, including massage, laughter workshops, hula-hooping, Ukulele lessons, arts & crafts, creative writing, seated exercise, complementary therapies, swimming, a 'pamper day' and self-defence classes! The flexibility and range of activities on offer was popular with carers who had varying levels of confidence and ability, or were attending for the first time and/or anxious or hesitant to experience a short break.
Short breaks were promoted via our outreach staff in Perth & Kinross, Argyll and Lothians with most referrals coming via word of mouth within the Gypsy/Traveller Community, an indication of the trust that has been built up as well as the success of this short breaks programme. Building on feedback from previous years, this year we also sometimes combined breaks with sessions which focused on Gypsy/Traveller identity and culture.
Much maligned and misunderstood, by organising a trip in partnership with the Highland Folk Museum to explore culturally significant objects from the museum archives, take part in reminiscence work and share experiences from childhood as a member of the Gypsy/Traveller community in Scotland.
Community members also participated in a highly successful trip to Dundee Rep theatre for a viewing of The Yellow on the Broom, and had the opportunity to go backstage to meet cast members and share their experiences.
What MECOPP has learned
The project benefited immensely from drawing on collaborative opportunities from partner organisations. We were able to add significant value to our proposed programme of events by adding an additional overnight residential thanks to support from the Highland Folk Museum. Through this partnership, the project was able to go above and beyond what would have been otherwise possible within the given budget, providing a highly enjoyable opportunity for community members to share their culture and reminisce about childhood experiences at the museum.
We also this year benefited from bringing in additional projects to supplement the programme offered to beneficiaries. We were fortunate to have funding available from our Community Arts Worker post to offer arts related activities to participants in a way we had previously not had available. In future years we will expand on this to bring opportunities from an additional project stream to offer leadership and confidence building workshops with individuals and groups.
This year in particular we learned the value of simply providing a space for social peer support opportunities. Feedback from beneficiaries reports that a significant benefit brought from these breaks is the social component, catching up with friends who have not been seen in months, sitting down and having a cup of tea. While more structured opportunities and therapies have a place, we find that it is important to also just have plenty of "down time" where people are free to come and go, sit back and relax.
How MECOPP has benefitted from the funding
MECOPP benefited in several ways from Creative Breaks funding this year. First and foremost the funding allowed MECOPP to continue to strengthen and build on work with the Gypsy/Traveller community in Scotland. Without this funding we would not be able to offer respite breaks to carers within this community, a community which has few dedicated services available to it from other services in Scotland. Creative Breaks funding also provided MECOPP with a solid evidence base to demonstrate the value our services bring to the community and the outcomes our Development Workers achieve on a daily basis. This strong base fed into a body of evidence submitted in a new successful funding application to the Scottish Government which in 2019 will support a new Development Worker to work with women in the Gypsy/Traveller Community. This will allow us to achieve further ranging outcomes and aspirational goal realisation on a individual and group basis around Scotland. We're very excited to see how this new project can bring further added value to future Creative Break residential and day events in the coming months and years. Lastly, this funding opportunity helped MECOPP to strengthen existing links with other support networks and organisations around Scotland who can bring beneficial services to the Gypsy/Traveller community in Scotland. We were able to work with workshop facilitators, complementary therapists and creative writing facilitators to name just a few as well as Highland Folk Museum in a highly successful one off overnight residential in 2018.
75% of participants will report improved knowledge about ways to look after their mental health and wellbeing, 90% of participants will have experienced a therapy taster or wellbeing-related workshop and 50% of participants will have tried to access local wellbeing services/therapies
With a focus on self-care and promotion of wellbeing and mental health, we successfully offered taster sessions on a wide range of therapies including massage, mindfulness, and laughter workshops. These sessions were popularly received across the board with wide uptake as has been the case in previous years from returning beneficiaries, as well as first time attendees who had not previously benefited from the Creative Breaks programme. With the support of MECOPP Development Workers, over fifty percent of beneficiaries went on to explore local options for continuing to benefit from wellbeing therapies such as massage and mindfulness.
Mrs Y is is the main carer for her daughter who has disabilities. Mrs Y advises that she regularly feels as though she faces discrimination against herself and her family from the wider community, and has difficulty meeting the caring needs of her daughter consistently due in part to the stress from this. At a overnight residential, Mrs Y had an opportunity to participate in a one to one massage therapy session which included tips and advice on how to manage stress at home. At a subsequent day event, T commented that she continues to use the techniques she learnt during her previous TFT session and explained the benefit this has had to her stress and anxiety levels. This has helped her to cope better in her caring role as she has a tool to use when her caring responsibilities are becoming difficult to deal with. On the day as a whole, Mrs Y said “Really enjoyed it. Enjoyed relaxing atmosphere. Loved the workshops. Good to see friends I haven’t seen for a while – hope there’s more of these trips. Brings back memories which is good, makes you feel connected to everyone.”
At least 50% of participants will have participated in at least two local or national events/activities, At least 30% of participants will be engaged in other MECOPP arts-based initiatives.
With support from a newly funded project within MECOPP our new Community Arts Worker was able to bring significant added value this this Creative Breaks programme in collaboration with our existing Development Workers to plan and coordinate a series of community arts based opportunities. Through this, we encouraged participants to take part in our established Moving Minds Exhibition, as well as a newly started Creative Writing Programme during a one night residential. At this event, participants were encouraged to write short stories on their memories of childhood and other important life events. This powerful session was well received, with further sessions planned locally in the coming months. The hope is that this will lead to the publication of a short book of stories from the Gypsy/Traveller community in Scotland. Participants were further encouraged to take part in local and national events, including at the Scottish Parliament and within local authorities .
Mrs Z has come to previous residential breaks offered by MECOPP and The Short Breaks Fund, but has been reluctant to get involved in other opportunities offered such as community art projects or volunteering as a facilitator for awareness raising training. With support from MECOPP Development Workers, Mrs Z took part in a creative writing workshop during a residential break. "Brilliant! Leone (creative writing tutor) was particularly good, went back to the old times, the memories, which is a good thing. Enjoyed the painting. It was relaxing. It takes your mind off things. I find it calming. I’ve not seen them (the group) for months. To catch up with everyone and have a crack , it’s great. It made me think, obviously, about the past which normally I don’t think about because you’re too busy. It’s a good thing even though you have sad times but it still makes you feel good." After this workshop, Mrs Z volunteered to become a workshop facilitator, offering to help raise awareness of the discrimination and issues the Gypsy/Traveller community faces in Scotland. The training session was highly successful, with Mrs Z remarking that it had given her increased confidence to speak out about injustices. The following month Mrs Z also participated in a community photography project "Out of Sight Out of Mind" at Summerhall in Edinburgh where she encouraged other community members to attend the launch event.
At least 50% of carers will report increased awareness of their rights, At least 50% of carers, or those being cared for, will have applied for local respite or another form of short break
The Creative Companions Programme this year had several elements intended to restore cultural pride and increase awareness of carers rights, specifically for those within the Gypsy/Traveller community in Scotland. We facilitated this through specific workshops where people in a safe and confidential space shared their experiences of Self-Directed Support . This work continues to build on previously successful projects where we have collaborated with community members to produce a DVD featuring interviews and discussion around the specific needs of the Gypsy/Traveller community in Scotland. In addition to this we continued to foster peer support networks across the communities we support where information and experience is shared and support offered from those able to do so. Local Development Workers continue to work with individuals to explore local opportunities for additional breaks that may be available.
Ms B has been working with her local Social Work Department for many years trying to secure a package of support for her daughter who has a mobility disability. Ms B started attending MECOPP Creative Breaks this year, after being told about these breaks from a family member in the Gypsy/Traveller community. When Ms B attended a local family day event hosted through the Creative Breaks programme, she was able to discuss her ongoing difficulties in a supportive environment with peers and MECOPP Development Workers. Following this, Ms B felt empowered to seek additional support and more fully understood her rights within the SDS system. Ms B is now working with MECOPP Development Workers and other local services to ensure her rights are upheld and that her daughter receives an appropriate service from the local social work department.