The Baobab Centre for Young Survivors in Exile was first formed in 2008 and set up as a company limited by guarantee in 2009 and later as a charity in 2010.
The centre was set up by a group of clinicians - experienced human rights workers - who identified many unmet needs in the models of treatment and support offered to young asylum seekers and refugees who had experienced human rights abuses during their developmental years. Research available at the time and subsequently highlighted the benefits of a holistic, integrated child and adolescent approach in improving access, quality and outcomes for children, adolescent and young adults with educational, physical and mental health difficulties (Youth Access, 2014). It found that children did best when a variety of services were provided in one place.
Our models of intervention have been influenced by a variety of theoretical frameworks. These include psychoanalytic approaches where defences and coping strategies that emerge unconsciously in one context can be explored for their appropriateness in other contexts. As an alternative to the ‘clinic’ approach where individuals come just for weekly appointments as a form of ‘treatment’, we offer an approach based on the idea of a ‘Therapeutic Community’ that place ‘examined living’ and the exploration of difficulties and opportunities of day to day interactions at the centre of our work together. Clinicians, caseworkers and group workers encourage and enable all young people to become active members of the community and to participate in community life. This involves focusing on themes such as communication, trust, authority, identity and responsibility. Our approach offers young people a sense that they are protected and acknowledged, that we ensure time to build relationships, explore moral and emotional difficulties and to mourn.
After initially benefitting from the use of space in the home of one of our founding Trustees, that allowed us to establish our services, we later moved towards the end of 2010 to offices in the Manor Gardens Welfare Centre. It has meant a great deal to the young people to have a dedicated space to which they can drop in anytime for help, to use the computer, or just for a chat and a cup of tea. However, we maintain the dream that one day we will have our own building with a kitchen in which the young people will be able to prepare meals and eat together.