Participatory Community Projects
The Alef Trust aims to promote holistic frameworks for human growth and flourishing, nurturing the development of individuals and communities in the UK and abroad. Alongside our educational work we support and deliver projects facilitating community development, social integration, and health and wellbeing. We are passionate about supporting people who find themselves at the edges of society, providing them with opportunities to rebuild meaningful lives underpinned by a deeper sense of purpose and vision for how they can contribute to the development and growth of our communities and culture.
Featured Project: Creative Alternatives
In the UK 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem each year. According to the Mental Health Foundation, mixed anxiety and depression are among the most common mental health problems experienced, and people from disadvantaged backgrounds are disproportionately affected. The economic costs of mental ill health are estimated to be £70 billion per year.
The Alef Trust manages Creative Alternatives, an award-winning ‘arts on prescription’ service for adults experiencing anxiety, stress and depression. Arts on prescription embraces the philosophy of social prescribing which recognises that many health conditions are not purely bio-medical in origin but have broader social determinants: social prescribing programmes offer non-medical interventions that promote wellbeing and self-care.
Creative Alternatives is funded by Public Health and it delivers multi-modal arts workshop programmes and events, combining expressive arts practice with mindfulness, relaxation and social stimulation. All programme outputs are underpinned by the 5 Ways to Wellbeing, a set of evidence based actions developed by the UK think tank the New Economics Foundation which promote wellbeing and foster resilience.
Creative Alternatives was first established in 2006 in Sefton, Merseyside, UK, where the service flourished for 10 years. In 2015 the service expanded to St.Helens, Merseyside.
We are now working on building Creative Alternatives Online, a live arts programme delivered through our online learning portals which will be accessible to people from anywhere in the UK.
“Social prescribing can alleviate […] pressure on GPs and other healthcare professionals, general practices and the health service more widely, all of whom are struggling to survive difficult times. Social prescribing goes further than that. By facilitating the patients’ access to a whole range of voluntary and local services, including becoming volunteers themselves, there is much potential to nurture local social capital and catalyse health-creating communities that strengthen their ability to care for themselves and each other.” Report of the Annual Social Prescribing Network Conference, January 2016
Creative Alternatives workshops combine relaxation and mindfulness practices with expressive multi-modal arts activity, featuring creative writing, visual arts and sculpture, photography, pottery and woodwork. One-off projects have included creative cooking and gardening, as well as drama and dance.
What participants say…
“Before joining Creative Alternatives I felt like I’d lost sense of who I was and like I was trapped in a dark place. Since taking part I can now see light again and have gained confidence in the person that I used to be. The creative process has helped me do that and I get lost in drawing and painting for hours on end. I now also feel confident that I can join new groups and meet new people. Without Creative Alternatives I honestly think I would still be at home feeling lost and alone in the darkness.”
“I feel stronger and more balanced, I have not had to go to the surgery since joining CA and have now discussed with my doctor about reduction in medication.”
“I am finding confidence to speak to strangers, to have opinions, and to find a little courage to face my fears. I am becoming more involved again and less withdrawn.”
”I just want you to know how special and important these arts workshops are to me. They are a lifeline. They are the only moments in a week when I feel free to share and communicate. They draw my emotions, and make me feel vulnerable but somehow safe too. They give me a confidence to try to express some of my fears and deepest feelings, and there are always people there who are willing to listen and encourage.”
“Creative Alternatives has been beneficial to me as it is totally away from the normal things I would do in everyday life. I find going to the classes therapeutic and relaxing, the staff and people who attend make you totally at ease.”
“I think this could be a real milestone for me. Everyone was so welcoming and kind, and I feel I made some real friends. I thoroughly enjoyed the workshops. As I mentioned to you, I’ve done a great deal of choral singing in the past, but it is something I haven’t felt able to do recently. To sing again in harmony from music felt wonderful, and was a very important step for me.”
“I have found that Creative Alternatives helped me prolong the time when I didn’t have to go onto an anti-depressant.”
“I have a better outlook on my life now and I realise there are other people like myself who are isolated. Creative Alternatives helped me move forward and ask for help. My mum died while I was on the programme. Creative Alternatives helped me while I was looking after her and it helped me deal with my loss of her.”
“I am going through a lot of stress in my private life. Amongst all the chaos Creative Alternatives has been a place where I can relax and have a different focus. It’s been a life-line to me, a real God send.”