Back in May this year when I, along with my fellow CELCIS colleague Paul, was asked to join the Drawing Together project as a researcher on the Scotland team, I realised instantly what an amazing project it was and did not hesitate! It meant that I would be working alongside young people who had sought refuge in Scotland and involved in a new area of research. We joined the project in year two of a three-year project and what I did not fully appreciate was the extent to which we would quickly become invested in our participants.
Two of the young people who have captured my imagination and admiration are our amazing project Ambassadors. Their enthusiasm, determination, ambition, creativity, and passion for the project and for the other young people involved in it, together with their thirst for making a success of their life in Scotland, is nothing short of inspirational. Our project is lucky to have them as our ambassadors, and we in Scotland are lucky to have them as our fellow Scots!
Our ambassadors have been incredible in helping us settle into the project and continue to be instrumental in building the bridge between our research team and our participants as we get to know each other and develop trust together. They are never short of really helpful advice on lots of different aspects of the project including how and when is best to connect with our participants and what potential challenges our participants might face that could impact their participation. All while checking in with our young people to see how life is going for them.
A fun part of their role (outwith the research element of our project of course!) is to organise social events for our participants to help them build relationships with each other that hopefully will last beyond our project. Their most recent event was at the beginning of December where they all went out for a meal together and sent us the most amazing selfies – their connection, joy, positivity and personalities shone through in the photos, and it was touching and amazing to see!
In the context of Covid and the associated restrictions, there is no denying the dichotomy emerging in our project, where we are looking to understand our participants’ relational wellbeing and their social networks, but in Scotland we are mostly having to do that at a distance via an online virtual world. There is also no denying that we could not achieve what we do without the amazing work of our fantastic ambassadors!