Between February 2018 and May 2018, I undertook a work placement with the Manchester based charity Pathway Arts who work throughout the North West, specifically Manchester, Liverpool and Wigan engaging with communities that host asylum seekers and refugees. Their work involves raising awareness of the asylum process in the UK and empowers and improves the well-being of asylum seekers and refugees through the creative process. This manifests in art exhibitions and informative displays which share the lived experiences of those seeking asylum. Given that in my undergraduate International Relation and Politics degree and MA in Humanitarianism and Conflict Response I have had little chance to gain experience in a practical setting, I was excited at the opportunity to work towards something that could have an impact in the real world.
The focus of my placement was decided by Emily Hayes, the co-founder and artistic at Pathway Arts who was to become my mentor throughout the process. I was tasked with creating an evaluation of art workshops that the charity had set-up in Manchester and more recently in Wigan. In Manchester this involved art projects with the asylum seeker led group United for Change. Writing an evaluation was a daunting task, but also one that was of significant importance in helping the charity. Emily made clear to me that although she has time to evaluations, they are often only to demonstrate the achievement of goals required by donors in exchange for funding. Therefore an evaluation that emphasised the voices of beneficiaries and the importance of their collaboration in the evaluative process was valuable to improving Pathway Arts’ impact on asylum seekers’ lives.
I became aware whilst conducting interviews and the focus group with the groups in Wigan and Manchester that I was not fully prepared for the complexities involved in the evaluation. The evaluative process involved knowledge and skills different to those I use in my essays at university which meant at times I found it difficult to adapt to this work environment. At this time I am finalising the evaluation which will compare the successes and failures in improving the confidence and reducing the isolation of those in the two groups in Manchester and Wigan. Once completed, this evaluation will be available via Pathway Arts’ website and will be used to demonstrate to donors the important part arts programmes play in the integration of asylum seekers and refugees into dispersal towns in the UK. This impact has affected me personally in that it has shown me the power of evaluative writing in fighting social injustices; I hope my work will contribute to this fight.