Young Citizens on healing together this Refugee Week

  • 22 June 2022

A young man looks out of the window thoughtfully

Young Citizens Trainer Abdulrahman

I arrived in the UK in 2018 aged 21, fleeing the war in Syria. I was full of hope, but scared as it was a new place and I had to start from zero.

The first time I left the house I didn’t know where I was, each day I would try walking 100m in one direction and then the other. Without English, I would avoid speaking to anyone, even shop cashiers, because if they said anything I wouldn’t be able to answer.

It hasn’t been an easy journey to settle here, there have been so many challenges along the way. It’s hard to know that I can’t go back to my country or see my friends and family for the next five years and I’ve had to learn and adapt to a whole new language and culture.

I joined Young Citizens because I had been in the UK for four years and still hadn’t met people my own age because I was placed in adult classes in college. It was an opportunity to meet other people aged 16-25 that I have something in common with and who I can work with as a team.

Coram Young Citizens working together

Young Citizens meet up

In the Young Citizens Training Programme I found something unique. When we get support from other organisations it’s from English people. When I was helped by someone from this country they were kind and doing their best to help but I thought to myself I will never be like them – they were born here, English is their first language, they were educated here. It’s really hard to be like them – and then I started judging myself – every time I did something good I thought it will never be as good as them and I have to work harder. With every success I thought I’d done nothing.

With Young Citizens, it’s run by young people who’ve suffered and faced problems and been through the system delivering workshops for people with similar experiences. Young people see that we came with no experience and no word of English like them and now we’re standing in front of them running a workshop. It makes them think if we can do it, they can do it too.

We are not there just to teach them, we are there because we believe in them. We are there to give them a little push and make them feel like people care about them.

Coram Young Citizens group shot

Group photo of the Young Citizens outside the QEII Centre on Coram Campus

The Young Citizens project has helped me to achieve my goal of working with refugees. When I came here in it was my dream but I was scared to go for it. The war started in my country when I was 14 so it’s very hard to work with refugees and hear their stories without it impacting you, when you’re still going through it yourself. The training on Young Citizens has helped me learn how to hear their stories without it effecting my own mental health and to stay happy and positive.

When we are delivering workshops the young people are really keen to work, study and contribute to society and when I see other refugees who are working hard to achieve and are trying to integrate it makes me feel proud of them and proud of who I am as well.

Photo of Abdulrahman smilingWhen I came to the UK I lost all my confidence because I didn’t have English and had been out of education since the age of 13. But over the last four years I completed all the ESOL Levels, then Functional Skills, maths and IT levels 1 and 2 and am now studying GCSEs and Accounting and Business Administration and working for a charity. I share this with other young people to show they can achieve whatever they want and to not let anything stop them.