Early in 2018 a group of enthusiastic and determined young people visited us at the Windmill Hills centre, sharing in one of our weekly lunches. They were members of the North East’s National Citizen Service youth board, wanting to find out about the issues refugees and asylum seekers face on a day-to-day basis. They had chosen this cause to focus their support efforts on, they explained, and they wanted to hear from our participants what particular type of help they would appreciate the most.
What became clear from the lively and passionate conversation that followed, was that simply being given the opportunity to share their personal stories was extremely valuable in itself. Everyone was keen to share not only their personal journey, their every day struggles, their dreams and aspirations. One participant remarked “It is necessary, for young people especially, to hear what is happening in the world, not only from the TV and the newspapers, but directly from the people in a that situation”. The participants felt that refugees are often sweepingly portrayed in a generalised manner, and most often in a negative light.
After this conversation it became clear to us all that there was a need for platforms which allow refugees to use their voice, and that is when we decided to start the ‘Refugees of the North East’ awareness campaign.
The ‘Refugees of the North East’ is an attempt to promote personal accounts of life of those that have gone or are still undergoing the asylum process. It is an attempt to focus on the humans behind the label; by casting the light on what connects us rather than what sets us apart, and by identifying common ground between us, we aim to promote mutual respect and inclusion.
To mark Refugee Week 2018 we are kicking off the project with five personal accounts over five days, as put together from interviews carried out by our new young friends over the past few weeks.
*Some names might have been changed to protect the privacy of people, as per their request.