The Happiness Project came from conversations with people who are involved with a Curious Monkey project – Arriving, who seek sanctuary in Newcastle/Gateshead through which an incredible group of people have formed – people from all over the world living in the North East, who come together 3 times a month for workshops, theatre trips and to eat together. Everyone is very different and there is a wealth of skills and interests. People in the group face many every day challenges – language barriers, long complicated asylum processes, housing, poverty, physical and mental health issues – dealing with all this can take up a lot of time and headspace.
“Many people find it hard to be happy.” said Belmira, a smiling bubbly Angolan woman “I know a way to make people in my community happy.” She had a brilliant idea which she shared with everyone.
The discussion opened up to others in the group and plenty more brilliant ideas began to flow – from children’s silent theatre projects to metamorphic massage courses. The Happiness Project was born; happiness and community cohesion – for people seeking sanctuary in Newcastle/Gateshead and others living in the same communities. Now through the Co-Creating Change commission it is a reality.
Amy Golding, the Artistic Director of Curious Monkey:
It is so easy for people to become defined by their asylum status that the person they were back home (and still are) with all their skills, careers, families and friends can be overlooked – or unknown to people here. People become labelled ‘refugee’ or ‘asylum seeker’. Meeting such resilient, interesting, funny, complex and frankly bloody brilliant humans from Syria, Sudan, Angola, Bangladesh, Iran, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and Kosovo has been utterly wonderful. But it’s not easy, it’s far from easy for many people to be here and exist within the systems in this country, it’s safer of course but also just a different set of challenges from the ones back home. I want to see these people, my friends, who happen to be refugees or asylum seekers leading, having the opportunity to be visible in their communities. Being able to realise their great ideas and having some money to do it. I’m so happy I can be involved to help make it happen. Knowing this group I know we are going to have a great time along the way, there will be a lot of laughter for sure!