In the run up to Refugee Week, Leila, Project Coordinator of InterACT at the Citizenship Foundation, talks about the ways in which the project successfully brings communities together.

InterACT brings together 16-25 year old asylum seekers and refugees with local young people to tackle issues they care about. The project enhances community spirit by building partnerships, challenging misconceptions and developing common understanding among participants.

Building partnerships

InterACT works in five cities every year. In each city, we recruit two partner organisations, one that works with asylum seekers and refugees and one that works with local young people. The partnership working model brings together organisations who may not otherwise have worked together.

In Cardiff, Eastmoors Community Centre and the Parade ESOL Service ran the project for two years. Eastmoors has since used the InterACT methodology to work with a group of Roma young people.

‘The young asylum seekers and refugees have been able to take part in activities that they may not have realised were possible prior to this project and members of the InterACT group now attend the ESOL Youth Group on a regular basis and some also attend mainstream youth provision with friends they have made’ Key Worker, Parade ESOL Service

Challenging misconceptions

One important outcome of InterACT is in challenging the misconceptions young people from different backgrounds have about each other. So far, 100% of InterACT participants have said that by the end of the programme they had a better understanding of the challenges facing refugees and asylum seekers.

Before the young people participating in InterACT meet each other for the first time, they explore issues through a creative project. As part of this stage, some cities have run myth busting sessions. In Liverpool, partners Refugee Action and Prince’s Trust (Fairbridge Programme) visited each other’s young people to talk about the work they do, the young people they work with and to answer any questions. Both groups of young people took part in a film workshop together. The young people interviewed each other and shared their own personal experiences, such as of being in care and of seeking asylum.

‘I really liked meeting young people from this country and learning about their lives and culture’, InterACT participant from Refugee Action

‘I never get to speak to refugees in any other situation and I’m really glad I’ve had the opportunity’ InterACT participant from the Prince’s Trust (Fairbridge Programme)

Developing common understanding

InterACT’s participants have the opportunity to work with people they may otherwise not have met. In Birmingham, this influenced the group’s choice of social action project. The group identified that there are not enough opportunities for young people from different cultural backgrounds to interact and developed a drama to campaign for more multicultural youth provision:

‘[InterACT] has really challenged the young people we work with to think differently about young refugees and asylum seekers and it’s been fantastic working with them and watching bonds form between them as they recognise that at the end of the day, they’re all just young people.’ Key Worker from Prince’s Trust (Fairbridge) in Birmingham

Community Spirit

Refugee Week encourages better understanding between communities by celebrating the contributions refugees make to society. InterACT also aims to build understanding and help young people feel part of their local community.

In a time of increasing anxiety about the decline of community, initiatives like Refugee Week and InterACT are essential to building community spirit.People need to be given the space to listen and learn from each other to ensure that all people are able to participate in their communities as equal members of it.