In Canterbury we visited KRAN (Kent Refugee Action Network), a brilliant voluntary organisation working to support young refugee and asylum seekers . Their focus is on integration and direct support in Kent, the county which has seen the greatest numbers of child refugees in recent years.
Christy gave a creative writing workshop to a group of teenagers from countries including Afghanistan, Eritrea, Vietnam, Iraq, Kurdistan and Syria. Christy discussed the importance of using the senses in storytelling, then asked the students to describe a place they knew well.
We heard many descriptions: a bustling local market in Kabul, filled with the smell of ‘spices & fresh fruit’ and ‘the sounds of people talking’; of the mountainous border of Kurdistani and Iraq, “in the Summer filled with green grass and flowers “. One spoke of “sleeping on cold, hard concrete” and the overpowering smell of bleach whilst being held in a detention centre; another told us about Chavi Land in the Sulaymaniyah region of Kurdistan, a huge tourist destination, with “the biggest ferris wheel in the Middle East”. A Vietnamese girl chose to describe the delights of an afternoon in Herne Bay, Kent, surrounded by “blue skies and green meadows”, hearing the “sounds of waves” and seeing “lovely bright yellow daffodils and breathing in their smell”.
The teens were very good company, full of energy, laughter and zest. They were intrigued by our pilgrimage to Iona, many were familiar with Hajj, the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca. Three boys showed me photos of Lalish, a beautiful temple set up in a small mountain village in Northern Iraq and the most sacred pilgrimage site for the Yazidis. The rocky island of Iona with its grey-brick monastery struck them as rather austere by comparison!
They asked why we were making this journey and we explained that we wanted to get to know our country better, to walk, to talk and to listen. They liked the idea, some suggesting we take a dog with us and others laughing at our tiny tent.
While at KRAN we spoke to Jessica Maddocks, the Communications and Development Manager and David Wilcock, a Youth Worker and who focuses on Community Engagement. Both were extremely welcoming, and clearly felt proud and energised working with these amazing young men and women.
Audio link below, hear what Jessica and David had to say about the importance of mentors, friends, and goats…