Empowering Young Migrants and Refugees: A Transformative Initiative in Leeds

Currently Funded by the National Lottery Community Fund

In the bustling city of Leeds, a transformative project is making significant strides in
reshaping the lives of young people with refugee and migrant background. Our journey
began with a pilot project in collaboration with SIRIUS European Policy Network for Migrant
Education. This initial phase saw two participants receiving policy and advocacy training in
Malaga, organised by the North South Centre of the Council of Europe. Buoyed by this
success, we expanded our reach to include 15 young people in our sessions. This brought to
life through the support of RETAS Leeds and Near Neighbours expanding phase, the project
has now gained momentum with the backing of the National Lottery Community Fund for its
current stage. This initiative is not just about integration; it’s about empowering these young
individuals to embark on a transformative journey.

Vision: Elevating Beyond Integration

“Young Migrants Achieving Change” stands as a beacon of empowerment for young
migrants and refugees. It’s dedicated to imparting crucial skills and confidence, enabling
them to drive meaningful change in their communities. This initiative prioritizes Active
Citizenship and Human Rights, with a strong focus on education, awareness, and tackling
mental health issues – all essential for a thriving community life.

Approach: Empowerment Through Engagement

The project actively involves 15 young leaders in participatory activities such as group
discussions, role-playing, and goal-setting, with the curriculum developed based on input
from the participants themselves. Building upon the success of the pilot project, it employs a
community-driven approach to strengthen social cohesion, enhance family and community
environments, and empower youth in their decision-making processes.

Session Highlights: A Journey of Growth and Discovery

Session One: Introduction to Citizenship and Human Rights, with interactive
presentations, group discussions, and role-play exercises. Participants are tasked with
interviewing citizens from migrant backgrounds about their community engagement.

Session Two: Focuses on the application of these rights in everyday life. Participants
share their interview findings and engage in workshops to deepen their understanding of
civic participation in Leeds.
Session Three: Participants transform their findings into actionable plans for community
involvement, culminating in a community discussion forum.

Continued Engagement: Workshops and Networking

The journey doesn’t end with these sessions. The project extends its impact through a series
of practical participation in communities to further engage families and neighbours in the
conversation. These workshops serve as platforms for continued learning, discussion, and
practical application of the skills and knowledge acquired.

Wrapping Up with a Networking Event

The culmination of this phase of the project is marked by a networking event, anticipated to
bring together 40-50 people. This event is not only a celebration of the achievements and
growth of the participants but also an opportunity for meaningful connections. It’s a chance
for participants, their families, and community members to network, share experiences, and
foster a sense of unity and collective purpose.

Impact: Building Bridges, Changing Lives

This initiative goes beyond personal growth, fostering a sense of belonging and cross-
cultural understanding, thereby contributing to a cohesive, inclusive, and resilient community.
Participants gain invaluable experience in civic engagement, benefiting their personal
development and the wider community.

Community Involvement: The Heartbeat of the Mission

Developed through consultations with young migrants, refugees, and community groups, our
project is a true reflection of the community’s needs and aspirations. We engage diverse
perspectives to ensure that our initiative remains responsive and relevant.

Conclusion: Join Our Transformative Movement

Our unwavering commitment is to empower, engage, and elevate the lives of young people
with refugee and migrant background in Leeds. Through dedicated efforts and
collaborations, we’re making a significant impact.

Join us in this transformative journey as we strive to build a more inclusive, empowered, and
cohesive society. Stay updated and get involved as we continue to make a meaningful
difference in the lives of young migrants and refugees.

For more information, updates, and ways to get
involved, follow our journey.

Young Migrants Can Achieve Change (YMCAC) Launch

We are excited to launch our new project – Young Migrants Can Achieve Change (YMCAC). We are working in partnership with organisations, including SIRIUS Policy Network on Migrant Education, to equip young migrants with the tools to make positive changes in their local communities.

This blog post is from one of our participants, Ibtihal, who attended Policy and Advocacy training with the University of Youth and Development in Spain through our partnership with SIRIUS.

Policy Advocacy Training Experience

During the October half term holiday 2022, I was granted the opportunity to travel to Spain for a week to participate in Policy and Advocacy training with the University of Youth and Development. This was organised by the North South Centre of the Council of Europe, in which I gained knowledge on migrant education, the vitality of campaigns and how to start one. I travelled relatively alone with the accompaniment of a cousin, meaning we had to socialise with others there. With the wonderful opportunity to work alongside people who originate from different parts of the world. During my time there, I was able to communicate and bond with everyone despite the language barriers. We were able to work together to create not only wonderful pieces of work, but create a welcoming environment that made everyone comfortable.

As Patrice Samuel Robinson said:

“Travelling teaches you valuable lessons. When you build relationships with the many cultures of the world you see their beauty and also begin to understand their challenges in life. Not just your own.”

Next Steps…

After this training, me and my peer have decided to work on an advocacy campaign together with the organisation Sirius Policy Network. We aim to create a safe space for all youth, bridge the gap with ageing communities and solving community challenges. We will continue to work on our campaign and put it into action.

Thriving Families Art Competition Winners

16-year-old Christina, a college student studying Graphic Design, entered this competition as art is her pride and passion. Her wonderful set of drawings are inspired by her Ethiopian Heritage: Image 1 is an illustration of a beautiful woman covered in a traditional Ethiopian scarf (netela) with the Amharic fonts above translated to peace. With the ongoing conflict in Ethiopia, she wanted to use her talent & this opportunity to raise awareness about this and bring attention to how we need to spread peace as a community. She adds that she looks up to a lot of Ethiopian artists, the likes of Addis Gebru, a famous artist that illustrates the rich culture of Ethiopia. She is a young driven artist with ambitions & hopes to dominate the graphic design industry.

We also introduce our other winner, 18-year-old Mohammed who is of Syrian background. Much like Christina, he has a passion for the arts as observed in the piece he entered. He takes an abstract approach to what we asked, explaining that ‘…. I was thinking about thriving families and about how people start one, but first nurturing them the best they can until the young ones are independent enough to fly from the nest…’ This approach he took signifies that even the young in our community understand the need and crucial importance of a thriving family to the development of children. In addition to Art, he likes to take up new hobbies every week, for instance, he also loves reading, writing, photography & also basketball. However, his main focus is an academic path into the science world & he hopes to study physics. Nevertheless, he definitely has the making of Leonardo da Vinci (An artist & scientist). He wants to pass his gratitude to Mr. Seigfried & those who have supported and encouraged him to follow through with his passion. 

COVID-19 has had a profound impact on a lot of people ranging across all age groups, genders, ethnicities & different backgrounds. However, the brunt of this burden is significantly prevalent in a lot of refugees, asylum seekers & migrant communities. More specifically, a lot of parents in these communities have and are struggling to support their children’s home learning during lockdown and school closures. 

Here at URP, we are deeply concerned about the barriers that these families face. Therefore, through the creation of the Thriving families project, we hope that this urgent response will heed to prevent the worsening educational inequalities resulting from Covid-19, based on the recommendations from our research. 

Part of raising awareness of this project is enabling the public to volunteer, donate or share our cause to their respective spheres. In addition to these strategies, we have introduced a concept of selling inspired gifts (tote bags) that will be used to help fund this project. In keeping our commitment to unleashing refugee potential, we have designed a ‘For Refugees By Refugees’ system where we source out refugee creators, not only to have an inspirational touch to the products, but also ensure that they are recognized for their creations. Our recent Thriving Families Art Competition has received an amazing engagement where a plethora of young refugee artists entered & shared their creations that followed through with the theme of ‘Thriving Families’. After a long and hard decision, we are proud to say that we managed to choose our two winners who have won the grand prize of £250, vouchers and their names printed on the tote bag, next to their creations.

Soon enough, we hope that the making and selling of these tote bags will enable us to keep our project running and supporting young refugee students at schools with home learning equipment. In addition, we hope through weekly one-to-one online tuition will give these students an opportunity to catch up and improve their academic outcomes. 

To volunteer and become an online tutor click here

To share and donate to our GoFundMe please click here

For information, please contact us at: kidist@urp.org.uk

Keeping Families Thriving

The past week has been rewarding and optimistic, as we delivered devices to young students across Leeds. Despite this initial success, there are still many more families left to reach. If interested, please visit the links below, to see how you can get involved.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a tremendous impact on all families, especially those from refugee and asylum-seeking backgrounds. Consequently, this has significantly influenced the learning and academic developments of these children. This is due to various reasons mentioned in our recent research report, including the lack of home learning equipment.

The government has delivered IT equipment to Local Authorities and academy trusts during summer 2020; to provide families, children and young adults who most need it and who do not have access to these items. Additionally, funding was provided to schools and Local Authorities to help support this vulnerable group access home learning equipment. However, many families are still struggling to gain access to these support systems & learning materials. In addition, families with refugee and asylum-seeking backgrounds may also not have the capability to understand or be aware that such support is available.

Here at URP, we have initiated the Thriving Families project to provide refugee and asylum-seeking families with IT equipment and weekly one-to-one tuition support. To ensure this project’s sustainability, we have collaborated with Leeds Libraries, Leeds City Council, and LEx (Lived Experience Movement) to provide our clients with devices. Through O2’s Community Calling campaign, two of our beneficiaries received refurbished iPhones with 6GB data monthly and free texts and calls for 12 months. LEx provided some of our beneficiaries on Thriving Families with refurbished laptops to help with their home learning and online tuition.

To volunteer and become an online tutor click here
To share and donate to our GoFundMe please click here
For information, please contact us at: kidist@urp.org.uk