Keeping busy with purpose: Virtuous occupations as a means of expressing worth during asylum

  • Helen Hart

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    Individuals seeking asylum experience a complex set of socio-legal circumstances which limit opportunities and undermine their sense of worth. The challenges of the asylum process impact significantly on many aspects of daily life, reducing access to meaningful and dignified occupation.
    This study employed a heuristic phenomenological approach, using a series of in-depth interviews to illuminate the everyday experiences of ten participants who have sought asylum in the United Kingdom. The aims of the study were to explore the meaning given to occupation by the individual; to consider the things which support or act as barriers to engagement in occupations, and analyse the perceived impact of experiences of occupation during asylum.
    All participants spoke of the challenges of the asylum process, acknowledging the practical and policy based restrictions they faced, and the impact of attitudes and opportunities on their sense of their own worth and value.
    Participants illuminated the potential of occupation to enhance their post migratory experience. They identified the importance of keeping busy, but the frustration of low demand activities which lack meaning. They demonstrated the desire to ‘keep busy with purpose’, using occupations to rise above their status as ‘asylum seeker’ and foster a sense of their personal value and worth.
    Altruistic occupations, like volunteering, were highlighted as particularly meaningful. Individuals found that ‘doing for others’ provided the opportunity to express their virtues and values, enabling them to flourish, fulfil their potential and experience satisfaction.
    At a time when opportunities are restricted, individuals require enormous drive, resourcefulness and energy to find and engage in meaningful everyday activities. Whilst any occupation may be valuable, virtuous occupations may have the potential to foster a ‘light side’ of occupation, countering the negativity that surrounds and devalues people seeking asylum, and fostering wellbeing in the short and long term.
    Date of Award30 Apr 2018
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Teesside University
    SupervisorDorothy Hannis (Supervisor), Shawn Costello (Supervisor), Susan Cleary (Supervisor) & Alan Armstrong (Supervisor)

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