Art, Food and Community

An evening with Leeds Asylum Seekers’ Support Network

We are passionate about what delicious healthy food and participation in the arts can do for maintaining a robust mental health. We offer fresh nutritious food and the best, fun and innovative crafts as a package that will enhance and promote positive wellbeing.

As a Leeds Mind service we believe individuals and communities flourish through creative practice and thought and support people experiencing mental health difficulties to lead full active and rewarding lives.

Providing a safe space to be creative that helps people build confidence, purpose, start conversations, share ideas, be part of a community and improve their mental health is what we offer daily at Inkwell. We are a service who is supported by a magnificent volunteer team and 85% of our volunteers have lived experience of mental health issues. We were thrilled to be invited to help support the Leeds Asylum Seeker Support Network’s (LASSN) volunteer celebration this month knowing what a crucial difference volunteers can make to a service.

LASSN was founded in 1999 in response to the pressing unmet needs of refugees and asylum seekers living in Leeds, many of whom have limited English, experience acute isolation, poor mental health, and prolonged uncertainty over their asylum claim.The charity helps more than 270 volunteers to support 485 asylum seekers and refugees each year. They also provide destitute asylum seekers with the emergency financial support and accommodation they need to survive over the winter months.

The celebration event was indeed just that, a celebration, a unity, and a wholly supportive gathering of all the LASSN volunteers to thank them for their achievements and dedication over the years. 100 people attended the evening and Inkwell Arts Café provided a delicious, vegetarian and vegan buffet that received glowing feedback and compliments from the all the guests.

John Beech (LASSN Director) said ‘it’s just so great to know that everyone can eat everything that’s on offer, and not have to pick through the food to find something that meets their needs’

Our brilliant volunteer arts team facilitated workshops in embroidery and sewing, ceramics and paper crafts adding a slice of creativity to the proceedings. Everyone was enjoying their activities so much that they had to be peeled away from their lumps of clay or reams of tissue paper to ensure they didn’t miss the colourful food that was on offer in the main foyer!

Workshop attendee (LASSN volunteer): “I haven’t done any thing arty since I was at school. I’m really enjoying myself!”
“The craft sessions are a brilliant idea as it’s a great way to get people together especially if you’re a bit shy. It feels less intimidating starting a conversation with someone”

Events such as these provide our volunteers with an opportunity to meet others, support their wider community and develop further experience and skills in facilitating classes. Our café also supports volunteers to gain industry standard catering and café skills which arms them with the necessary tools to move into meaningful paid employment when ready.

Thankyou to the team at LASSN for inviting us to be part of such a wonderful event.We are proud to be able to collaborate with organisations that do such crucial work for the city of Leeds. The evening was a great opportunity for everyone to get to each other.  There was always a common ground to start conversations, and the relaxing mix of crafts and delicious food provided an instant ice breaker that soon flowed into full chat.