Daniel Calvert, Education Editor at the British Red Cross, introduces their Our Shared Future resource and the research behind it.
The current refugee crisis in Europe has seen the largest number of people flee violence and conflict since World War Two, making it more important than ever to explore the topic with children and young people in the classroom.
There are around 117,000 refugees living in the UK, a small proportion of the 16.5 million refugees worldwide. (UNHCR). Behind these numbers are individual stories of people arriving to new communities in the UK and building a new life.
We commissioned the resource to provide a range of ideas to get young people thinking about refugees. The will help your class develop empathy, as they put themselves in others’ shoes to understand how we all have a shared humanity with the same kinds of fears and hopes as one another.
Someone like me
We recently commissioned research with young people to find out more about their understanding of and attitudes towards refugees and asylum seekers. The research showed that there is a strong desire from 10–19 year olds living in the UK to learn more about refugees and asylum seekers. The research found that 83 per cent believe that young refugees are just like them.
This is the focus of the first activity in Our Shared Future resource. Working in small groups, distribute a pack of 12 cards describing different aspects of a person, including what they enjoy studying and what they do when they are not at school. After discussion you can reveal that the cards describe a young refugee called Abraham, who came to the UK from Eritrea and is now living in Kent.
The recent research revealed more than three quarters of young people expressed an interest in learning about why people had to leave their home and come to the UK.
What do their journeys look like? What’s it like to arrive in a new country? The best way to answer some of these questions can be through the incredible stories of real refugees that have made the journey to the UK.
One such story comes from Ebrahim, a young refugee who fled Iran in fear of his life. Students can explore his story through an engaging comic book that follows his journey to the UK and struggle to gain asylum. The comic describes some incredible moments in Ebrahim’s life – from winning a place at university in London to being cast in an award-winning film. The resource comes with accompanying activities to help aid discussion.
You can focus on how communities around the UK get together and collaborate to make their lives better.
Students can see how refugees have contributed to the communities they live in through two case studies. From the Syrian refugees who joined the emergency response to floods in Manchester, to a Guinean refugee who set up Plymouth Hope FC, a hugely popular football club that attracted locals and refugees alike.
Working in groups, ask your class to think about how refugees might join in their local community, what values motivate them to participate, and what barriers they might face. In this way, the activities help young people to think about their own role as active citizens.
Taking positive action
The majority of the 900 young people who were interviewed as part the research said they wanted to know what they could do to improve the lives of young refugees and asylum seekers. So after engaging with the topic, it’s likely that your students will want to do the same. Activities in this resource help young people focus on the roles they can play in creating a positive shared future. Activities consider values, attitudes and actions in order to produce a positive action plan for the class, school and wider community.
The plans could also be used to form the basis of wider community engagement, for instance in an assembly, on wall displays or on screens around the school.
Visit the Red Cross website to view more inspiring, ready-to-use refugee resources.
About the research
The British Red Cross commissioned specialist youth researchers Platypus to interview over 900 10–19 year olds representative of the UK population. The purpose of the research was to find out about their understanding of and attitudes towards refugees and asylum seekers.
By Daniel Calvert, Education Editor at the British Red Cross
Images @ British Red Cross.
Top: Syrian Nada (28), her husband Faisal (33) and their 7 children. Clutching her youngest child, one-year old Abbas, Nada explains that they had to leave their hometown of Deir ez-Zor when several of their family members were killed in air raids. Idomeni, Greece, 15 March 2016.
Middle: Syrian refugees and other volunteers fill sandbags to stem flood water in York city centre December 2015
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