Freedom from Torture - Photography creates a bigger picture for Thurshika

Photography creates a bigger picture for Thurshika

Natural beauty of a rose tree, by Thurshika

Learning photography skills and meeting other young homeless people in the Accumulate Project helped Thurshika during her asylum process.

Thurshika spent many difficult years as an asylum seeker, after escaping from her home in the north of Sri Lanka. She spent part of that time locked up in an immigration detention centre. Even after her release, there were many difficulties, including times she was homeless.

Thurshika was a client of Freedom from Torture when she was nominated by her therapist Emine to take part in the Accumulate photography project. Accumulate is a charity that helps young homeless people by encouraging their creativity through classes and activities, especially photography. Students learn about the technical side of photography, visit art and photography galleries, and collaborate with students and staff at Ravensbourne College of design and digital media in Greenwich.

Thurshika was awarded one of the five scholarships that enabled her to study for the three-month access course at Ravensbourne. She attended the weekly workshops and learnt a huge amount about photography – an activity she had not done in the past. She found herself enjoying the course and gaining new skills.

Just as important were the other things she took from participating in the programme. She met other young people who were also facing difficulties in their lives. Some were refugees but many were youngsters who had family problems or had been in care or had suffered abuse. They came from different backgrounds and communities but what they had in common was that all had been homelessness, living in hostels or in temporary accommodation.

Asylum seekers cannot work and with only a very basic asylum allowance (£37 a week for a single person) to live on, life is very difficult. There are few opportunities for travel or leisure activities. Life can be very monotonous. The Accumulate project gave Thurshika a new outlet for her energy and skills and greater confidence in her abilities and hope for the future.

One of Thurshika’s photos was selected to feature in the 2017 Accumulate exhibition, held at the ground floor galley at the Guardian’s King Place building in Kings Cross. Titled Made by Us the exhibition featured photos from 23 young homeless people.

Thurshika’s photo was called Natural beauty of a rose tree and shows a heavily pruned rose bush budding with new growth silhouetted against an anonymous urban landscape. She says:

It was a rainy day, and I was roaming around when I noticed a small garden. I thought to take a picture of the natural beauty of the tree. I wanted to reveal its real colour and beauty. I like taking pictures with meaning. I pay more attention to nature, and things that look natural.

Since the course ended Thurshika has been granted refugee status and thus is able to remain in the UK. She is now allowed to work and will soon be starting a job with a large retailer. While she will not be continuing with photography for the moment, she may return to further education sometime in the future.

She is grateful for the opportunities that Accumulate has offered her and, like the rose in her photo, will continue to grow in the sunlight.

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