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Caritas Westminster: Journey to a Good Life

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Caritas Westminster partnered with Mayday Trust to spotlight the voices and experiences of migrants and refugees.

When you think of a good life, what does that mean to you?

This is the question which volunteer listeners asked over the summer of 2023. The responses made up the report Wisdom from a Journey to a Good Life: Capturing the Voices of People Seeking Sanctuary in the UK. The result of these conversations are 6 recommendations for people working to support people seeking sanctuary in the UK.

Caritas Westminster worked with Mayday Trust to produce the report which was collaborative in its design and delivery. 57 people were listened to, and 11 projects and organisations across London and Hertfordshire were involved. Since then, more people, projects and organisations have engaged with the ‘Wisdoms’. Working together led to strengthened links and we heard from some participating organisations that this approach to listening has had an impact on their work moving forwards.

Participants in the listening were at many different points in their journey and included people who had newly arrived in an Asylum Hotel, whilst others had come to the UK via schemes such as Community Sponsorship and Homes for Ukraine. Some people had received their refugee status, some were undocumented, awaiting a decision or did not have recourse to public funds. Unsurprisingly, where people found themselves situated within the system had a profound impact on their experience.

Informed by Mayday Trust’s person-centered approach, the question was formulated so that it was not leading, nor did it presuppose a particular answer – centrally, conversations were guided by the person sharing. The recommendations are a careful synthesis of all the insights shared across the conversations. The common themes and messages that arose then made up the body of the final report. These are:

  • having a sense of choice and control,
  • being treated with humanity, understanding and compassion,
  • being a part of the local community,
  • being able to achieve ambitions and have purpose,
  • being able to see family and friends,
  • but before any of this, basic needs have to come first,
  • having something to feel hopeful about.

"To leave your country and go to a completely new place, [you have to be] a strong person. It’s a strong person who leaves their home. They are very ambitious people, but don’t have opportunity. Don't have choices. At least if I had education I would be learning for the future."

"A good life means you have many choices”.

“Wisdom from a Journey to a Good Life emphasised the importance of community, kindness, and giving people the power to shape their own lives – areas where each of us can play a part in supporting and helping others, even when many other aspects are beyond their and our control.”

Wisdom from A Journey to a Good Life Recommendations:
1. A good life is about more than just meeting your basic needs.
2. But, until people’s basic needs are met, they may struggle to connect with their broader goals and ambitions.
3. Mental health and support to recover from past trauma are vital for those who have come through tough times.
4. Help to foster opportunities to develop and support local communities that emphasise choice and control.
5. Work to empower people who may experience little choice and control in their lives.
6. Continue speaking with people who have moved to the UK from other countries, particularly those facing challenges in securing residency.

Photograph shared by Caritas Westminster

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