In September, Xenia took part in the Jo Cox Loneliness Commission, which looks to investigate the impact of loneliness in our society and focus on the positive action we can all take to recognise it and alleviate the problem. The Jo Cox Loneliness Commission was set up by MP Jo Cox before she was murdered in June 2016. She decided to set up such a commission after witnessing the extent of the loneliness crisis in her constituency. The various “Spotlight months” put the focus on groups of people who are most vulnerable to loneliness, including the elderly, carers, men and disabled people. This month, the spotlight is on the refugee and asylum seeking community.

At Xenia, addressing social isolation is as much a part of our work as giving migrant women the opportunity to practice English. Every Saturday, participants can look forward to meeting new people, as well as seeing familiar faces, and having a chat in a friendly and welcoming environment. The sessions also provide an opportunity for women to have cross-cultural discussions about experiences they may have shared; this could be about being a mother, being unable to work due to their status or cultural barriers that they have faced in the UK. By providing a women-only space, participants can feel more comfortable in sharing their experiences, thoughts and feelings with others.

With the support of Refugee Action, Xenia held a focus group on loneliness with English learners at one of our workshops. It was very different to our usual sessions, which use positive and engaging themes to provide social relief and help alleviate stress and anxiety. The facilitators from Refugee Action created a safe space in which the participants only shared what they were comfortable with, enabling participants to find support in each other as many had common experiences of isolation and loneliness. These are difficult and important conversations to have, and it was striking and encouraging to hear participants speak about the positive effect of Xenia in their lives. For some, it gave them a reason to get out of the house every week, for others, it was their only support network.

Despite the intensity of the session, many of the women were enthusiastic in sharing their experiences with the group, and one participant said that she was glad to have had the opportunity to open up to others about something that she wouldn’t usually talk about.

Xenia is glad to have been able to participate in the Loneliness Commission and help raise awareness of this important issue, and we are grateful to our wonderful participants for allowing us to gain an insight into their experiences so that we can help combat loneliness for migrant women in London.

Click here to read more about Refugee Action’s research for the Jo Cox Loneliness Commission.

Artwork: Anna jay

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