This year I have attended a number of the Refugee Week events, including the Refugee week conference in February 2014 which was held at Amnesty International UK in Shoreditch.
To me Refugee Week is about bringing a range of different people together- refugees and non-refugees – to share our different cultures; to think about ways to celebrate the positive contributions of refugees by giving them opportunities to share their talents. Usually Refugee Week events are attended by a range of different organisations and individuals.
I have attended two Refugee Week conferences and I think the event gives a huge confident to refugee artists and other individuals to believe in themselves and realise that what they do is great and that they are part of Britain, not just a refugee. Another really important part of the conference is educating people who are not refugees about the experiences of refugees in the UK and the impact that refugees can bring to the country.
I remember attending a music performance and being quite shocked to hear a religious song called “طلع البدر” that I knew from my childhood. The audience was predominantly English and European but they loved the song, even if they are non-Muslim. This showed me that we share one soul and nationality is just a name in the passport. I like Refugee Week events (including the annual conference) that offer people the chance to get together to have lunch together. Through getting to know eachother and hearing more about what people do in their life you can start to understand people more and make friends.
At the conference my role was to take photos to record the event. I helped out at the Refugee Week stall and I made sure that people knew what was happening in the programme and where to go.
If you were to ask me if I will continue to volunteer with Refugee week every year my answer will be “Yes yes yes!”
I developed my skills and I met a range of people including professionals who I could talk to about my hopes for the future. I made a connection with Refugee Week Chair and CEO of Refugee Council Maurice Wren. I decided to set up my own Refugee Week event at Croydon City College for Refugee Week 2014 and I invited Maurice to do a speech. It was great to get to know him and stay in touch with him sharing my hopes for my career in the future.
I also co-led a theatre workshop at the Refugee Week conference with Ovalhouse Theatre and my theatre group (The Paper Project). We presented our work as well, sharing a video of our work and talking about it. It was quite nerve-racking but rewarding!
After volunteering at the first Refugee Week conference I was invited to support the Refugee Week UK Central Team. They told me about the 2014 theme of Refugee Week – the positive contributions of refugee children and young people; our shared future’. Refugee Week UK established a new Young Ambassadors scheme and I become one of the Refugee Week young ambassadors.
The first thing that I got involved with as a Refugee Week young ambassador was a collaboration with the Freedom From Torture Write to Life group. I attended a workshop with a bunch of lovely refugee adults who were writing about their own experiences. We shared dinner together and made friends, inviting them to our events such as Celebrating Sanctuary London on Southbank.
I was invited to attend a comic book release (British Red Cross commissioned artist Karrie Fransman to create a graphic novel for Refugee Week 2014)which was a surprise because the story is about a young refugee that I know. He been through some horrible experience that no-one wants to have. He highlighted to me that there are lots of other young people who just want to live in a safe environment, and inspired me to be strong. I also met more new people at this event!
At Celebrating Sanctuary London on Southbank next to the River Thames (which launches Refugee Week each year in June) I had two roles. I was performing with The Paper Project. I also helped on the Refugee Week stall: selling Refugee Week materials (T-shirts, badges, balloons); promoting Refugee Week; telling people about the program for the day and the Week; discussing the “Tell Your MP” Simple Act; talking to people about their stories; introducing people to each other so that they can collaborate with each other (and Refugee Week).
In this festival I met many people that inspired me with the work they are doing. This gave me a huge push to be more confident and instigate activity that I want to deliver such as a Refugee Week event and a social network group to promote peace and solidarity for Iraq. I made a lot of friends at festival whilst I working.
I loved it!
On Monday 16th June Refugee Week I was invited to a parliamentary event to launch Refugee Week. The event was held in the State Rooms of the Speaker’s House, Westminster. It was a tremendous experience because that’s the first time I got to go inside the parliament of UK. It made think about the importance of my role as Refugee Week Young Ambassador.
I was also invited to take over the Refugee Week Twitter account for a day, helped by Refugee Week partner Refugee Action. I shared my story in tweet. A longer version of my story was also published in Huffington Post which was really exciting: ‘When You’re a Refugee, the Power of Education Is Very Strong’.
Getting involved in Refugee week has changed the way I think about volunteering. It was enjoyable and exciting. It made me so happy to see a young refugee having a laugh and talking to other people.
At the moment I’m looking for a refugee group or charity that I can get involved with to help young refugees in the UK. I want to do this as this part of my role has inspired me the most and makes me happy.
I can’t wait to help out with Refugee Week next year and hope that I can do even more with them next time!
Ready to learn and work,
Refugee Week Young Ambassador