Introducing our 2022 Refugee Week Ambassadors! They are spokespeople for Refugee Week who use their lived experience and expertise to help wider audiences understand what it means to be a refugee.
The Refugee Week Ambassador Project was founded in 2019 to support and provide a platform for people who have experienced displacement to share their stories and perspectives during Refugee Week.
It is run by Refugee Week UK Coordinators Counterpoints Arts and IMIX, a charity working to create a more welcoming conversation about immigration and displacement.
Refugee Week Ambassadors from previous years have featured in the Metro, Huffington Post, Elle and Stylist, among other national and regional titles.
Meet our 2022 ambassadors below, and look out for them this Refugee Week!
Mona Adam was elected as Labour Councillor for Golborne in May 2022.
She is a qualified social worker who has worked with several NGOs and various agencies to implement policies in different fields.
Mona is an advocate for all people, demonstrated through her work, listening skills and deep concern for others.
She is passionate about landlord performance and negotiating resolutions in a way that considers the needs and aspirations of communities, as well as supporting vulnerable groups such as youth, homeless people, and those involved in the care system. She also wants to ensure community mental health services.
You can follow Mona on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok.
Aref Ghorbani is an Iranian trained classical musician and came to Scotland as a refugee in 2018. He has MSc in Animal Genetics and Breeding from Iran but leaving his home country and becoming a refugee in Europe has changed his life. He has been working within the refugee sector since 2016 in Greece and after arriving in Scotland continued work in various refugee projects and different refugee organisations. Aref currently works as Destitution Coordinator at Refugee Survival Trust.
Aref has recently finished his studies in Global Migrations and Social Justice from University of Glasgow and is also a facilitator of Musicians in Exile, a project that brings together musicians with lived refugee experience in Govan. In 2019, he received the National Diversity Award and EPIC Awards of Scotland.
Aref is also the Founder and Director of artist network Iranian Scottish Community, a community interest company aiming to support Iranian artists and those who have made Scotland their home with integration through art.
You may have spotted Aref performing in numerous festivals, including Refugee Festival Scotland, COP26, Edinburgh Fringe, MELA Festival and SOLAS Festival and you can experience his musicianship this summer within the Edinburgh International Festival in VOCAL: a performance of Persian classical and folk music interspersed with conversation around the censorship of music and cultural expression.
Follow Aref on Twitter Instagram and LinkedIn
Loujean Alsaman is 28 years old and is a media professional. She likes writing poetry and listening to rage and soul music to lift her spirits. Loujean studied Media and Public relations at the University of Westminster and works at Borkowski, a renowned Public relations agency in London.
A cause Loujean deeply cares about is tackling cyberbullying.
‘Verbal abuse can cause such harm to victims, even leading to suicides. I believe that democratic countries should put strict laws against cyberbullying in place, and consider verbal abuse as equal to physical abuse in terms of the damage it can potentially cause.’
She lives in London and one thing she loves about this city is that it has been a hub of artists and writers throughout history as well as today. ‘I discover new things in London every day!’
Loujean’s future aspiration is to build a transparent media centre with its own outlet, broadcast and channel that is not politically biased.
She said: ‘I do still believe that all media outlets are affected by their own biases even in Europe and the UK. I believe that media is a major soft power that has the ability to affect a war or peace.
What is one thing Loujean wants you to know about her? ‘I am a fighter!’
Follow Loujean on Twitter
Noura Idriss lives in Manchester, a city she loves. She said:
‘I admire Manchester as there’s always something new to explore, from libraries, museums and art galleries to parks and restaurants. I have been having so much fun and it continues.
‘I always find something to do when I feel happy, or things to do that cheer me up when I’m feeling down or stressed. From eating different cultures’ delicious foods to walking by the peaceful water and feeding birds around my local area. I also enjoy walking around free museums and learning more about art.’
In her spare time, Nour enjoys cooking with her sister, spending time with her friends and going to the gym. She also cares about her religion and its principles.
‘My religion coats one hundred percent of my life and I rely on it for all matters of my life. I am looking forward to gaining more knowledge and practising it even more. It gives me value and it teaches me that we humans are one great family, so we need to support each other.’
What is one thing she wants you to know about her?
‘I am a very peaceful, friendly person. So we can immediately be friends!’
You can follow Nour on Instagram, and YouTube.
Clark Leung is a student from Hong Kong. In 2019, he took part in protests against anti-extradition laws being passed. After turning 18 and one year after the National Security Law was implemented, he braved a journey to the UK alone after getting an adult passport.
Now, he is studying for his GCSEs in the UK. We asked him what he was passionate about.
‘I am campaigning for student loans or other forms of financial support for family members of BNO Citizens (British National Overseas) who will study at universities, as they can’t access public funds before they have indefinite-leave-to-remain and citizenship.
‘I am starting a new generation organisation for Hong-Kongers called Hong Kong Student Alliance CIC and other young people. I want to help people from Hong Kong in the UK settle into life here, as integrating into a new country is not easy. I also want to improve access to further education, as that is important for people to continue their lives here.’
Follow Clark on Twitter and Instagram
Kushinga Hare is 37 years old, and moved to England from Zimbabwe 23 years ago. She lives in Reading with her husband Simon and their three-year-old son.
Kushinga works as an Engagement and Pathways Coordinator for the Sing for Freedom Choir, whose members consist of torture survivors and their allies. She also works for Reading Refugee Support Group and is an ambassador for City of Sanctuary UK.
She is extremely passionate about her role as an activist and advocate.
‘I take my role very seriously. Being a spokesperson for the rights of refugees and asylum-seekers is a huge privilege.’
To relax, Kushinga loves immersing herself in stories; especially contemporary Japanese and African literature. She also enjoys singing.
‘My work with the Sing for Freedom Choir means every week I attend choir rehearsals either in person or online. I love singing, it’s relaxing and makes me feel less anxious when I feel overwhelmed.’
Kushinga has this message to other people who have sought safety in the UK.
‘I have suffered with ill mental health all my life and going through the asylum process made me unwell, resulting in a few hospital visits over the years. When you are going through the process, you can’t see an end in sight and life seems hopeless.’
But she is proud of her resilience.
‘If I want something I will fight for it. Saying that, resilience is a quality we women possess. We have no choice but to be strong. We carry our children on our backs and toil in the fields while the sun beats down on our necks.’
Follow Kushinga on Instagram
Abdulghani Hashas is a business owner and tutor who lives in Huddersfield. He particularly enjoys nature and the friendly people there. In his spare time, he enjoys listening to music and going on long walks.
Abdulghani cares about supporting vulnerable people. ‘It makes me happy.’
What is one thing he wants people to know about him?
‘That being a refugee is not a choice. But the other things you do in life – to work hard and be a success? That is a choice. That determines who you are.’
Magadaline Moyo works for Right to Remain as the Organiser for Manchester and Liverpool These Walls Must Fall (TWMF) campaign, a network of community-based campaigners who are part of a movement to end immigration detention in the UK.
Right to Remain works with communities, groups and organisations across the UK providing information, training and assistance to help people to establish their right to remain and challenges injustice in the immigration and asylum system.
Magadaline is also a human rights activist. She is passionate about advocating for human rights including the rights of migrants, marginalised groups and those of vulnerable women, children, the disabled and the elderly.
She fights against social injustice and advocates for equality. She is involved with a few organisations in Manchester that are fighting for the same cause, including LISG Manchester, Manchester Rape Crisis, Restoration of Human Rights Zimbabwe and is in the Executive Committee of the North Branch UK.
She is also involved in initiatives promoting the welfare and education of girls and young women in Southern Africa.
You can follow Magadaline on Twitter and Instagram.
Tamana is based in Northeast Essex, Clacton-on-Sea, where she loves walking along the beaches of her town.
‘The sound of waves disconnects me from the complexity and challenges of life at least for a few minutes. I also love that people in my community are very kind and respectful.’
Tamana sought protection in the UK in 2018 from Afghanistan, and it took three years for her asylum claim to be accepted.
Tamana is most proud of getting a fully funded place to complete a Masters at the University of East London. ‘It was not easy. I did it and I couldn’t be more proud of myself.’
What does Tamana want you to know about her?
‘That as a former asylum seeker – and current refugee – I didn’t give up. Life challenged me in different ways, but I have overcome all the challenges and made the most out of my life. I will continue supporting vulnerable people in the community to experience equality and inclusiveness.’
Follow Tamana on Twitter
Ali Ghaderi is a theatre actor and producer who lives in London. He is a part of Compass Collective, a production company that develops performance art projects for young refugees and asylum seekers. He also spends his time volunteering for various charities in the city, and is a Movement Worker for Our Second Home.
He said: ‘I like that there are many charities and networks here that help people make friends and find their place. When you move to a new country, it’s daunting because you don’t know anyone.’
Ali also loves languages and speaks six, including Farsi, Arabic and Kurdish.
He is also passionate about combatting negative stereotypes about people seeking sanctuary in the UK.
‘A lot of businesses on the streets are run by refugees or immigrants. Many people in the NHS have refugee or immigrant backgrounds. I want to see more of those stories being told in the media.’
Follow Ali on Instagram and Twitter
Lubna Zein AlDeen
Lubna Al Zain lives in Southwell, a quiet market town in Nottinghamshire. ‘I love this area due to the pure and clean air-breathing space’.
In her spare time, she likes travelling and making crochet items to cheer her up.
Lubna is passionate about the rights of girls and women. She said:
‘I’m looking forward to being an Ambassador for Refugee Week so I can continue the dialogue in the UK, as well as in Arab countries to empower women and girls, and support the development of their welfare and rights.’
Sleman Shwaish is a 33 year old Kurdish Syrian who came to the UK in 2012 and holds a Masters degree in Nutrition and Food Science from the University of Huddersfield.
Sleman has worked with refugees since he was in Syria – supporting Iraqi refugees, he volunteered and worked for Syrian Arab red Crescent, then after the Syrian conflict started he decided to flee the country because he was unable to continue his dream and study before joining the army, which he refused to do.
Sleman continued his humanitarian journey by becoming a Red Cross volunteer for a year before becoming a staff member. He worked for seven years on different projects at the Red Cross before moving to work at Refugee council as a resettlement caseworker.
Recently he decided to open his own business which is Mood Cafe, a family coffee shop in Huddersfield town centre.
Sleman is inspired by the words of Nelson Mandela: “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world”. He says that we will never stop trying to make the world a better place for refugees.
Follow Sleman on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Linkedin.
Niloha Rangel is a refugee from Venezuela living in Wrexham, Wales. She was a consultant paediatrician in her country and is re-training to become a doctor in the UK.
She arrived as an asylum seeker and applied for political asylum in August 2018. She’s been with the VOICES Network since 2018 and has spoken at various events online and in person Internationally and in the UK ( Parliament Square at the Welcome Refugee Rally).
She’s a strong advocator for well-being encouraging people seeking sanctuary to seek opportunities to integrate and re-build life. She is an enthusiastic runner and has fundraised in various marathons. She has been interviewed in BBC Radio Wales, Newspaper and has participated in a documentary in S4C ( Welsh TV).At the same time, she advises organisations and decision makers on how to improve integration.
She recently gave a speech at the Audio & Radio Industry Awards where the VOICES podcast won the Gold Grassroots Award. Her line ‘be more inclusive’ was quoted by attendees across Twitter after the event.
Hear Niloha’s podcast episode here and follow her on Twitter here
Abdulrahman Bdiwi is a Syrian refugee working as a project administrator for Breaking Barriers. Abdulrahman is also a Young Citizen Trainer for Coram (Refugee Charities in London) and a volunteer ambassador for Voices Network, which is a collective of refugees and people seeking asylum charity founded by the Red Cross. Actively engaged with several refugee organizations, Abdulrahman’s contributions have been instrumental in the effectiveness and success of efforts aimed at assisting and uplifting refugees.