Today pupils from across Wales took part in an inspirational conference about refugees and asylum seekers at the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea.
Pupils from four Welsh schools joined in a conference jam packed with energetic workshops and inspirational talks. The event marked the end of ChangeMakers, a project led by Oxfam Cymru to help develop young learners into globally responsible citizens.
The main event for the pupils was a moving talk by Gulwali Passarlay, a refugee who fled from Afghanistan to the UK when he was 10 years old and has gone on to become a writer and activist. His inspirational and powerful story, chronicled in his autobiography The Lightless Sky, has sold thousands of copies in several languages.
The day also featured workshops with Wales for Peace, Young, Migrant and Welsh, and the Waterfront Museum which is also the UK’s first Museum of Sanctuary.
Ahead of the day, the pupils have been busy exploring the refugee crisis through a series of workshops delivered by Oxfam Cymru, where they learned about the hard lives of refugees around the world, and the constant challenges they face in their journeys to find sanctuary and peace. They heard directly from asylum seekers living in Wales about their experiences before working together to creative positive action plans create change and influence their peers.
“During the project, we got to understand the importance of what is going on, and the importance of the refugee crisis. We also learned about the importance of refugees to our country. Being a refugee is very hard and challenging.
Alysha, also from Glan-y-Môr said:
“We organised a sleepover for the school to show the conditions refugees and asylum seekers have to live through when fleeing for safety. We got the permission from the Headmaster, and we did the sleepover at the school hall, where everyone slept in lines of sleep bags, like they do in refugee camps. We also raised money by doing this. It was a good experience”.
Ronnie, a year 7 pupil from Coleg Cymunedol y Dderwen said:
“Before I started the project, I was one of the people that thought that refugees and asylum seekers should not come to this country. After the ChangeMakers project, I have learned that it is not their fault, and that they are only coming here because they have to, not because they want to, and they want a better life. They have no money to live on, and refugees and asylum seekers have a very hard life.”
Rachel Cable, Head of Oxfam Cymru said:
“ChangeMakers has been a fantastic way to help young people learn and think critically about real issues that face the world today. The refugee crisis can often seem like a daunting subject to teach and understand, but through workshops and today’s conference the pupils have engaged with the subject with sensitivity, enthusiasm, and energy.
“It’s been a pleasure to see everyone sharing their ideas and passion today. Our young people in Wales are truly setting an example for everyone on being compassionate, globally responsible citizens. It is events like these that further cement Wales’ commitment to being a Nation of Sanctuary”.
Notes to Editor
- The ChangeMakers project involved four schools; Ysgol Bro Idris in Dolgellau, Ysgol Glan-y-Môr in Burry Port, Coleg Cymunedol y Dderwen in Bridgend and St Joseph’s Roman Catholic High School in Newport
- 69 school pupils, aged between year 7 and 12 took part, as well as eight teachers.
- ChangeMakers is delivered in partnership by Oxfam Cymru and the Welsh Centre for International Affairs (WCIA), and is funded by the Welsh Government through the British Council Wales International Education Programme.
- Across the globe, 68.5 million people have been forced to flee from their homes, the population of Wales 22 times over. One person is forced to flee every two seconds, and children make up half of the world’s refugee population.
- The National Waterfront Museum was presented with the Sanctuary Awards by City of Sanctuary, becoming the first Museum of Sanctuary in the UK. The Museum won this title for its work in welcoming refugees to Swansea.
- Wales For Peace is a four year project looking at Wales’ peace heritage over the last 100 years and inspiring young people in particular to take that heritage over the next 100 years.
- Young, Migrant and Welsh is a new project which engages young people from diverse backgrounds in researching and documenting their experiences of coming to and living in Wales.
- Gulwali Passarlay, (biog available here)