Doing What's Write; Refugee Eric Ngalle Runs Writing Workshops for Asylum Seekers Putting Pen to Paper Is Proving to Be Therapeutic for Asylum Seekers in a New Arts Project. Abbie Wightwick Finds out More

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), February 20, 2016 | Go to article overview

Doing What's Write; Refugee Eric Ngalle Runs Writing Workshops for Asylum Seekers Putting Pen to Paper Is Proving to Be Therapeutic for Asylum Seekers in a New Arts Project. Abbie Wightwick Finds out More


REFUGEE running free writing workshops for asylum seekers in Cardiff says it is helping them overcome trauma.

a. Eric Ngalle is also working with Cardiff and Carmarthen-based 3Crate Productions who have been awarded an Arts Council Wales grant to research turning the Cameroon-born writer's work into a production.

Mr Ngalle, 36, who has lived in Wales on and off since 1999 as an asylum seeker, was finally granted refugee status last year.

Heavily involved in recent successful protests against refugees in Cardiff having to wear wristbands to get food at accommodation centre Lynx House, Mr Ngalle runs twice-weekly writing workshops at the Welsh Refugee Council attended by Syrian, Iraqi and Kurdish asylum seekers and refugees, among others.

After noticing how therapeutic writing about their experiences was, Eric now hopes to expand the programme with help from the WRC.

"I want to use writing as a means to overcome trauma," he said.

"Most of these people internalise trauma. I ask them not to just write about trauma but any positive memories too. Writing is giving them back their identity.

"One guy, a 21-year-old Kurdish Christian, wrote about being persecuted, being passed from group to group and about one day being kidnapped and blindfolded and taken to a bridge.

"Sometimes people don't feel free to talk about memories so writing encourages them to talk about positive things, like the warm sunshine of Syria.

"They also write about life here and nostalgia for the countries they came from.

"One Ethiopian guy wrote about how the smell of coffee from shops in Cardiff takes him back to Ethiopia."

The group writes in a variety of languages and then it is translated for each other, if they can. Eric's long term aim is to publish a book with some of the stories, poems and personal testimony of the group to share their experiences and help foster better understanding about refugees and asylum seekers in Wales.

"The situation is so bad for some that they even have ghostlike appearances. One guy told me that for the 29 years he's been on earth it feels like he's been in a prison. He's from Iraq.

"I saw him on the streets (in Cardiff) and I called out for him multiple times. …

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