Young Citizens is Coram’s award-winning programme for young people from migrant and refugee backgrounds aged 16-25. Young Citizens members co-design and run workshops in colleges and other settings across London for other young people who are new to the country, sharing their experiences to help others to make positive lives for themselves in the UK.
At the event, several members of the programme spoke about the impact the workshops have had for both the trainers and participants since launching two years ago.
Three of the Young Citizens Trainers shared stories of how they use their experiences to help young people feel less alone; how they learn about and inform others of their rights and how they give young people hope for their futures by sharing positive stories.
Young Citizens Trainer Djamila said: “Young Citizens helped me to open up and share my story. I saw young people who were like me and were experiencing the same things. It built my confidence. It pushed me to continue because all the time I’m sharing my experience, I can see the effect on other young people. The aim is to make them feel that they’re not alone.”
Debbie Weekes-Bernard, London’s Deputy Mayor for Communities and Social Justice, praised the “inspiring” work of the Young Citizens and said: “You’ve clearly had an enormous impact on people’s lives and it’s actions like this that will go on to have long lasting effects, long beyond the training, and the support, the conversations, the advice, so never ever underestimate the impact that you can have on the lives you’ve touched. I’m so impressed with those of you who are using your experience to help others and make that difference.”
Debbie highlighted that a key priority for the Mayor’s office is supporting young Londoners to access their citizenship rights and said: “I know the barriers that young people face at the moment who don’t have secure immigration status is immense, it affects university access, housing, work and more and this instability can go on for some time.”
Debbie continued: “We need to make sure that London is a place where anyone can thrive no matter what their immigration status is and that they feel that London is open to them and for them and is welcoming to them and welcoming to others. And this also includes promoting the really brilliant work that Young Citizens are doing so that more people can benefit from your support. Giving other young people who face hardship relating to immigration the knowledge and the confidence to access their rights, to help them to have hope for their future, it’s an incredible achievement.”
Dr Carol Homden, CEO of Coram, closed the event by thanking the Young Citizens for their achievements and contributions, and said: “It’s not just your voice that is being heard that we’re celebrating tonight, we’re celebrating your achievement in serving other people. And I personally believe very strongly that it is through serving other people that we find ourselves. That we find our confidence and develop our skills and find our place in society. And so really I just want to thank you for your service, not just to yourself and to Coram, but to the whole society of which you are a part. You are changing the world, one life at a time. You are helping other young people to follow in your footsteps and you are leading towards a new future.”
The Young Citizens Trainers deliver workshops on the asylum process, care system, wellbeing and support networks to 16-25 year olds from migrant and refugee backgrounds across London. Find out more at coram.org.uk/youngcitizens.