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Everyone’s story is their own: learning from the personal narratives of young refugees

Updated: Aug 19, 2022

Christine and Hamid

First published on the CELCIS website on 23 June 2022

Christine and Hamid are two young people who came to Scotland as refugees and are now settled in Glasgow. They are both currently Ambassadors for the Drawing Together project, which uses artwork to explore how young refugees rebuild their everyday life in Scotland, Finland and Norway. They are both also members of New Young Peers Scotland (NYPS), which is a group of young people from different countries aged between 16-25 who help newly arrived unaccompanied young people in Scotland. During Refugee Week, Christine and Hamid reflect together on their involvement in the Drawing Together project and NYPS, the experiences of refugees in Scotland, and their hopes for the future.

Hamid: I am a person who came to Scotland as an unaccompanied asylum seeker to build a new life in a new society. I am inspired by everyday life, nature, and people, and I am always willing to help young refugees. My arms are always open to welcome and help new young refugees with a huge smile. Currently, I am an ambassador for the Drawing Together project, a member of the NYPS group, and an architectural assistant.

Christine: I am currently an ambassador for the Drawing Together project, I like nature and being out in parks and the countryside. I love seeing the joy on people’s faces when they are happy and during my free time, I volunteer for various organisations to help people from one life goal to another.

‘We like to be their light’

Both the Drawing Together project and NYPS share a common value of wanting to reach out to unaccompanied asylum-seeking young people and young refugees, respectively. They both share the ability to bring every culture together by sharing food, music, and the joy of laughter. Both projects are run on a voluntary basis by participants and the individuals responsible are caring and treat everyone equally with so much respect.

We were drawn to the Drawing Together project as it fits with our values and we like easing the pressure off people by providing support in any way we possibly can. This project was a perfect fit for us all as we all had a similar vision, which is to look out for other people and provide help because we wanted to be someone who could be an inspirational person for other young refugees who arrive in a new country unaccompanied, without any hope, or have lost themselves somewhere in their life. We like to be their light, and we could shine throughout their journey to indicate help and hope and to provide less stress and less loneliness in their journey.

One of our favourite parts of the Drawing Together project is seeing participants grow from the first art workshop, which focussed on the present, through to our future, and then in the last workshop reflecting on our past. We greatly enjoy seeing participants encourage each other during workshops, they are so supportive of each other's ideas. The team of researchers have also created a very calming, welcoming atmosphere for the participants, which in turn has created a safe place which makes everyone feel comfortable to share their ideas.

Listening and learning: ‘everyone’s story is their own’

In everything you do, small or big, it is very important to know the participants involved to a certain level as this establishes trust and makes everything easier for both parties.

We have learned that being an ambassador is a huge responsibility because we always have to be wise and look out for the participants, as well as be grateful for the task given. We have been given the opportunity by the group to apply the knowledge that we are capable of and to be a bridge between the participants and the Drawing Together project. We have learned how to develop trust between the participants and the ambassadors, and to bring more joy, happiness and success to this project as an ambassador.

We have learned that each participant has a story to tell, and all the stories have been told in a variety of beautiful ways. The experiences are not describable because we cannot put them in words to say how lucky we are to share valuable stories and great memories with each participant. Every participant is unique and everyone's story is their own. It has got us to think about the future and think of where things are going.

You can’t predict the future but it allows you to analyse how things are going. We think this project is one of many that should be carried out to show how the lives of young people progress as they integrate with the Scottish community, to display different colours and the amazing contributions that young people bring within Scotland.

This project is important as it gives value to the participants and gives them an opportunity to create a positive impact on how they have built a life in Scotland. It delivers a message to the future young people who are starting to build their life in Scotland; this project acts as a symbol of hope.

Our hopes for the future

The hopes for these projects are to deliver a clear message for people who do not believe in refugees, or refugees to be integrated and to be part of a new society where you can feel safe and can be a human, and share our skills and talents. Hopefully, these projects will be a reliable place where a young refugee starts to shine, and those people who make decisions for refugees start to think twice before making the final decision on refugees' lives. Also, we believe these projects will have a positive impact on refugees lives in a new country.

The first thing that refugees need is a place where they can be happy and safe without stress. Young refugees need to receive professional support from experts showing full respect and paying attention to what a young refugee likes, rather than just assuming what is best for everyone as a group. They should be seen as individuals and their needs should be met individually.

Scotland is already a country that welcomes refugees in a friendly way, but there is more to be done, and we hope they could do more to provide a smooth integration for refugees in a new society. Scotland should aim at providing more transparent knowledge on where new arrivals should get help, there is a difference of being told there is help available and being shown how to access help.

We hope the projects can make a positive impact by influencing the lives of refugees and those of decision makers. We hope the projects succeed and helps/touches the lives of other young people in many ways as it has helped us. For us, it has brought us close to our friends and got us thinking about a future where we feel safe, where we belong and are successful.


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