Elena Hristova, Volunteer Therapeutic Art Teacher

My name is Elena and I came from Bulgaria in 2008. When I came to the UK I couldn’t speak English very well, or understand the language. I found it very difficult to communicate and hard to settle in. I then enrolled into Christ Church University and in 2012 graduated in Fine Art & Business Management.

Having found employment in a local cafe and whilst studying in Canterbury, I met a trustee of Migrant Help. After speaking to this him about the charity’s work I realised I wanted to help. He suggested I use my experience as an immigrant and talents as an artist to volunteer.

I joined Migrant Help in 2013 and volunteered to run Therapeutic Art Classes with victims of slavery and human trafficking and on occasion asylum seekers. I received a lot of encouragement from Migrant Help and the project has been a great success. It helps individuals and groups to express their feelings and gain more confidence though the form of art. It also gives them the chance to connect with others in the class and build on their level of trust with charity staff. I believe that through this activity service-users gain even more motivation to move forward and fully access Migrant Help’s support to help them recover from their trauma. Working closely with Victims of Slavery and Human Trafficking Team has been an amazing mutual learning experience and enhanced the well-being of all involved.

Through the support of friends and other volunteers, I was able to continue to develop my own English skills and find self confidence and I no longer feel like an outsider. I want to give the same support to service-users at Migrant Help who find themselves in similar circumstances. I want to help them feel valued and help build their motivation and support them in their future plans, whether it is through education or finding a job.

I am also proud to say that I have an art display at Desson Art Gallery in Canterbury for one period of 1st June – 1st August. I am also honoured to be able to contribute 15 % of all sales made to Migrant Help.

I believe as long as you have inspiration, a dream and a goal, anything is possible. This is what my aim through Therapeutic Art is, to make it possible for our clients.