We’re delighted to introduce our Refugee Week 2020 leadership group: five young emerging leaders from refugee backgrounds who are doing exciting work in advocacy or arts and social change.

The Refugee Week Leadership Project, coordinated by Counterpoints Arts and funded by Ben & Jerry’s Foundation, aims to support lived experience leadership in the context of Refugee Week, a national festival coordinated by Counterpoints Arts, as well as in the arts and advocacy sectors more broadly.

Following a successful first year in 2019, the 2020 project has a focus on youth leadership, supporting five emerging leaders aged 30 and under.

In the run up to Refugee Week 2020 (15-21 June), the 2020 leadership group will help lead a project through a leadership placement (last year these were at Shakespeare’s Globe, Migration Museum, Freedom From Torture and Salusbury World), receive training and mentoring and take leading roles at the Refugee Week Conferences in February.

Salani and Daniela were part of last’s year’s cohort:

“I am extremely pleased with my achievements during [the leadership] programme…. I am going to apply my ability to speak out and use my own personal experiences to inspire others. I will be campaigning more on the hope of getting more reforms to the current immigration / asylum system in the UK and for peace, justice and freedom in my home country: Zimbabwe.”  – Salani Mutseyami, Refugee Week Leadership Project 2019

“Having the humbling opportunity to work with incredible humans, artists and organisations that continue to use their practices to create socially conscious work, is something I am extremely grateful for. Equally important, have been the great friendships that I have made with the rest of the members on the programme. The opportunity to come together with such inspiring individuals, to share stories, exchange ideas and learn from one another’s expertise and experiences, has been priceless.” – Daniela Nofal, Refugee Week Leadership Project 2019

For more information about the Refugee Week Leadership Project, contact Refugee Week UK Coordinator Emily Churchill Zaraa on emily@counterpointsarts.org.uk.

The Refugee Week 2020 leadership group

Baz

Mohammed AlBaz

Mohammed AlBaz is a 24-year-old social activist, who studied Tech Management in Palestine, where he volunteered and worked at different institutions including the University of Palestine and UNDP.

In 2018, Mohammed moved to the UK to start a new chapter of his life. As he waited more than a year for refugee status, he was prevented from contributing financially to society, but began volunteering and participating in courses and conferences. One of these projects was ‘Creative Recovery’, organised by Plymouth University, which turned refugees’ memories of their countries into 3D portraits.

When he moved to Edinburgh, Mohammed worked with some fellow refugees to set up a team to help other refugees access new opportunities.

MD headshot

(c) Marian Alonso

Md Mominul Hamid

Md Mominul Hamid is a human rights ambassador and community advocate who is campaigning for the rights of asylum seekers to access higher education. Himself an asylum seeker, he is now a Sanctuary Scholar at Northumbria University, where he is studying law. His Judicial Review against the Home Office, on human rights grounds, was instrumental in pressuring the review of immigration bail restrictions and re-writing of guidance related to asylum seekers’ right to study in 2018.

Through his campaign in the North East, Northumbria University has already given five scholarships and Newcastle University has announced three scholarships for asylum seekers. He also volunteers as a National Ambassador for STAR, Experts by Experience panel member for City of Sanctuary UK, a Trustee in West End Refugee Services, an Advisor in Citizens Advice and with Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, D6, MAJF and Curious Monkey. He believes in his Mother’s words: “Be there for people and your community, something good will happen in return” and he will follow this always.

Mandla headshot

(c) Marian Alonso

Mandla Rae Nkomo

Mandla Rae is a writer, programmer, facilitator and theatre maker. Born in Zimbabwe, raised in London, Mandla now lives in Manchester. They have performed at venues such as Rich Mix London, Theatre Royal Stratford, HOME, Contact and the Royal Exchange Theatre.

Mandla has been commissioned by Journeys Festival International, Commonword/Cultureword, Mother Tongues Festival, Contact and archive activists Invisible Women to create new pieces of writing and performance in 2019. They were also commissioned by Contact to curate and host Queer’s Contact’s Outspoken.

Mandla recently self-published their first poetry pamphlet ‘slaughter’ which was then published in the New Landscapes Anthology from Ohio based Lungs Project.

Ahmed headshot

(c) Marian Alonso

Ahmed Noori 

Ahmed Noori is studying Politics and International Relations at Queen Mary University, and is an Afghan refugee who came to UK in mid-2015. He is passionate about migrant and refugee issues and has been involved in many projects to raise awareness about refugees’ difficulties, struggles and the negative stigma they face in this country. He has also been an advocate to raise awareness about the Home Office and its treatment of asylum seekers and how leaving them in limbo for such long periods pushes them to suffer severe mental health problems. In 2017 he was awarded second prize in Coram’s national award for Special Award for Migrant Young Person. He hopes the Refugee Week Leadership Project will provide him the platform to depict a positive picture of refugees and migrants.

(c) Marian Alonso

Hafza Yusuf

Hafza Yusuf is a British Somali Textiles designer, Art educator and founder of HAFZA STUDIO. She was born in Mogadishu, Somalia, during the civil war. Her family left Somalia when she was two for a better life in the UK. Hafza’s love for art led her to study a degree in textile design in London; her work celebrates Somali art and culture.

Hafza believes in giving back to the community; she is a passionate advocate for using art as a way of healing and for personal and creative development. She started to volunteer her time to give back to her community by teaching art classes to help refugee women tell their stories through art. Her workshops ‘Textiles helping Somali women explore their past’ was recently featured on BBC and the inews.