Who are Hoops and Loops?
Hoops and Loops is a Support/Social group for LGBT+ asylum seekers and refugees. They were first set up by Displaced People In Action in 2015 and still has a few founder members in the group awaiting for their asylum decisions.
What do they do?
They meet once a month in a safe space, interacting with like-minded people and sharing stories with one another. During their monthly meet, they discuss upcoming court hearings, have movie nights, share experiences and support each other mentally.
What’s it like being LGBT+ and seeking asylum?
Members of the group have come from all parts of the World, fleeing domestic violence, persecution, beatings and other actions that I’m not able to print here for the severity. As chair to the group for the last two years, I have heard many terrifying stories and experiences from men and women who have fled their countries, home, families and their children. How can someone leave their children behind I hear you ask. Well, some of these people have brought their children with them, but others have had to leave their grown-up children behind, because they are fleeing to save their own life.
One member in particular left their grown-up sons behind but finds it very hard to speak with them as it’s a constant reminder of how much they yearn to see their sons, but know it’s not possible to return home for fear of being killed.
How do I help the members?
I have shared mental support to the members who have told me they find it difficult to talk about their experiences as they’ve been so used to hiding who they are for so long. I try to make their journey here a positive one, focussing on a light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. I make the meetings upbeat, showing that we/they can be the person they are and not have to hide – sharing jokes and having a good time is important as their mental health is not always very good due to their previous circumstances. We try to have a social event every few months, so that new members can get to know older ones and integrate, making sure no-one is feeling left out or isolated.
Many members first join the group extremely introverted and scared, but I ensure them that we meet safely, share support and show them that we care. The group has grown so much over the last year, with word spreading that it exists. There are sometimes some language barriers, but each member learns English from other people very quickly.
If you’re interested in supporting Hoops and Loops, or can even come along as a speaker to one of our meetings, then please get in touch.