Over the past week, I’ve written about three people – Sami, Xiu and Tesfay. I’m aware that none of these stories were particularly uplifting. Of course, negative experiences are a daily occurence for many refugees and people seeking asylum. On the flipside, there are also many positive stories among these communities. One of the most inspirational people I’ve ever met was a refugee living happily in the UK. He assisted with the legal aspects of immigration casework, spoke four languages fluently (including English) and was loved among the Levantine, Kurdish and Iranian local communities. His story has most certainly involved hardship, but is also one of success.
The kids are alright
Behnam, the man I describe above, is middle-aged and has had some time to settle and enjoy his life in the UK. At the other end of the age spectrum, there are many child refugees who have travelled to the UK unaccompanied and are trying to carve out their own stories. I have the pleasure of working with an especially energetic group of children from a variety of countries (primarily Eritrea, Syria and Afghanistan). These lot are so jokes! They are all incredibly friendly, big smiles all around, and they can even tolerate my shocking ability to kick a football in any direction but the right one.
On Friday night, they performed a play in the British Museum at front of an audience of about 50 people (and, trust me, they were not expecting 50 people). They were legit hilarious, with bang on comic timing. Nadir got a big cheer for a cheeky bit of improv satire about how much he hates school, while Omar had the audience in hysterics as he got out his ‘new phone’, which was a late-90s style brick. At the same time, they were all able to convey a genuine emotional sense of what it means to be a young person all alone in a big city, having fled a warzone. What I’m trying to say is, these kids are pretty cool cats, and it’s a joy to get beat playing pool with them.
This post draws us to the end of Refugee Week. If you’ve enjoyed or been moved by any of these posts – and even if you haven’t – I would really recommend getting to know some of the refugees, migrants and people seeking asylum in your local area. Community is essential for the well-being and mental health of all us – you may be surprised by the sense of local integration you feel as you start to talk to others in your ends. There’s plenty of opportunities about, from full-on 7 hour advice-giving shifts, to just taking a moment to have a cup of tea and a chat. It’s as simple as having a look on a volunteering database, or typing “volunteer with refugees” plus your local town in an online search.
In these dark times of European nationalism and the populist far-right, there is plenty of shit to get depressed about. This means that it’s more important than ever to help others feel welcome and comfortable in their new communities. Do it for them, do it for yourself, do it for everyone.
‘Behnam’, ‘Nadir’ and ‘Omar’ are pseudonyms – their names have been changed to preserve their anonymity.