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Life in Kent has given two teenage refugees from troubled countries ‘hope’ and ‘freedom’

By   /  October 22, 2016  /  Comments Off on Life in Kent has given two teenage refugees from troubled countries ‘hope’ and ‘freedom’

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By Sian Elvin  |  Posted: October 21, 2016

One of the young refugees, Abdu, speaking to the public about his artwork

Two teenage refugees have spoken about how living in Kent has given them freedom and hope for the future.

The British Red Cross is currently showing an art exhibition in Rochester which allows young refugees to express their personal journey through the asylum system.

Kent Live spoke to two teenage refugees about the project, and about what life is like for them now they are living in the county.

Eight boys and two girls under the age of 18 have contributed to the project, which is titled Exodus: Our Journey As Young Refugees.

 “I am very happy with the exhibition,” said 17-year-old Henok, who arrived in the UK in September 2015 after leaving Eritrea in east Africa.

“It means people can see what I am thinking, and it helps me explain what’s in my mind through my art.”

Read more: From 0 to 250 – the number of refugees your council is planning to support

They all arrived in the UK alone, travelling from the Calais ‘Jungle’ and seeking asylum after traumatic experiences in an array of troubled countries, including Albania, Somalia, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Sudan and Iran.

“My work is about how the world is fragile,” added Henok, “My country is fragile, and although most people come from different countries, to an extent they are all fragile, like with family.

“My life in Eritrea was broken – I can remember soldiers everywhere.

“My family is broken and the world is broken.”

image: http://www.kentlive.news/images/localworld/ugc-images/276434/binaries/Red%20Cross%20Exhibition%20(13).jpg

Henok’s artwork on display at the Huguenot Museum in Rochester

He explained how everyone should have global awareness to recognise how other countries in the world are struggling, rather than only focusing on their own.

“When people ask where I am from, I say Earth,” he added.

Abdu, 18, also arrived in Kent last September when he fled Sudan.

“I helped make a life jacket because when you come from another country, you can compare them and see the two countries are very different,” said the Greenhithe resident.

image: http://www.kentlive.news/images/localworld/ugc-images/276434/binaries/Red%20Cross%20Exhibition%20(10).jpg

The life jacket artwork Abdu contributed to for the exhibition

“When people travel across the sea to the UK, some people have lifejackets, and others do not.

“So we decided to make one with all the things on it which are important for life.”

‘When you get to Dover, there is hope for you’

He explained how he and some other refugees put patches on the lifejacket which helped “save” them when they came over to the UK, for example, health, equality and human rights.

Henok also expressed how living in Kent has given him hope for his future.

“When you get to Calais and go to Dover, there is hope for you,” he said.

“You had no hope before, you had no family, but now you have hope, and you have help.

“You can learn how to cook, first aid and English. It is important for young people coming to the UK.

“And you live somewhere where you can help contribute to the economy.

“And there’s freedom. There was no freedom in my country.”

image: http://www.kentlive.news/images/localworld/ugc-images/276434/binaries/Red%20Cross%20Exhibition%20(9)a.jpg

Abdu speaking about his artwork with a visitor to the museum

They are currently both studying a course in construction at Lewisham College, and hope to become engineers in the future.

“I am so happy to be able to work towards my dream,” Henok added.

The British Red Cross helps millions of people in the UK and around the world to prepare for, respond to and recover from emergencies, disasters and conflicts.

It helps people in crisis to live independently by providing support at home, mobility aids and transport, as well as teaching first aid skills.

Exodus: Our Journey As Young Refugees is being shown in the Huguenot Museum in Rochester High Street from Monday to Wednesday, between 10am and 5pm.

It runs until Friday, November 18.

And each young refugee will gain a Bronze Arts Award certificate for completing and presenting their work to the public.

Henok and Abdu’s full names have not been given, or Henok’s photograph, for their protection


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  • Published: 5 months ago on October 22, 2016
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  • Last Modified: October 22, 2016 @ 11:41 pm
  • Filed Under: English, Insight

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