University of Bedfordshire awarded funding for young refugees to tell their stories through art

The University of Bedfordshire has been awarded funding for young refugees to tell their stories through art.

Using artwork to tell their story, the causes of wellness in young refugees is to be examined following the award of a €1.3 million grant to the University of Bedfordshire and three research centres in Finland and Norway.

Using artwork to tell their story, the causes of wellness in young refugees is to be examined following the award of a grant to the University of Bedfordshire and three research centres in Finland and Norway. Photo by Art Refuge UK 2016

Using artwork to tell their story, the causes of wellness in young refugees is to be examined following the award of a grant to the University of Bedfordshire and three research centres in Finland and Norway. Photo by Art Refuge UK 2016

The project begins in January 2020 and will be carried out over four years.

It is one of seven Nordic-British migration projects out of more than 200 applications to be awarded funding by NordForsk, an organisation under the Nordic Council of Ministers that provides funding and facilitates Nordic cooperation on research and research infrastructure.

Led by the University of Bedfordshire’s, Professor Ravi KS Kohli, based at the Luton campus, the project will focus on the experiences of 50 young refugees and how they find health, happiness and prosperity with the help of Finnish, Norwegian and British citizens.

It will also examine what they put back into those countries to create a sense of ‘relational wellbeing’.

Using artwork to tell their story, the causes of wellness in young refugees is to be examined following the award of a grant to the University of Bedfordshire and three research centres in Finland and Norway. Photo by Art Refuge UK 2016

Using artwork to tell their story, the causes of wellness in young refugees is to be examined following the award of a grant to the University of Bedfordshire and three research centres in Finland and Norway. Photo by Art Refuge UK 2016

With the help of artists, art therapists and art workshops to illuminate the data collected, the project will culminate in an art exhibition displaying objects made by the young refugees to show how people can live together in difficult circumstances despite their differences.

Once completed, the art exhibition will be on display in the UK and then toured around Norway and Finland.

Professor Ravi KS Kohli, Professor of Child Welfare at the University of Bedfordshire, said: “At present, many research studies regarding refugees focus on measuring needs and identifying remedies via changes to policies, resources, laws and practices.

"While this focus is important, we think that research also needs to be conducted beyond the drama and volatility of the asylum phase.

“Our focus is on quiet acts of hospitality between young refugees and those people who help them to forge a future despite the many difficulties that they face in rebuilding a sustainable life.

"We will explore how refugee wellbeing is aspired for, emerges and is sustained in Finland, Norway and the UK.”