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Achieving success with refugee youth

30 September 2005

Achieving success with refugee youth

A Victoria University Geography and Development Studies graduate course focusing on ‘hands on’ interaction with Wellington’s young people has been hailed as a success by all involved.

Twenty-one postgraduate students have spent the past 12 weeks doing participatory research with some of the Capital’s young people, particularly refugee youth, to identify strategies to improve their wellbeing.

Course coordinator, Sara Kindon, says the feedback regarding Young People and Participatory Development from the students, youth and community partners, has been excellent.

“The course gives students the opportunity to bring together theoretical knowledge and transfer it into practice, in a supportive environment. The students really appreciate having this ‘hands on’ experience and the communities are just as happy to have researchers pushing for effective strategies to support young people’s development in New Zealand.”

The class was split into four groups during the course: three worked with local refugee youth, and one with a national youth organisation.

Geography student Kate Satterthwaite, 25, was part of one of two groups investigating refugee youth health and wellbeing, in partnership with EVOLVE (Wellington Youth Centre) peer support workers. Her team worked with African youth. They used participatory workshops, role-plays and drawings to help young people identify the most important issues they face growing up in New Zealand.

“Because they are so visible in the community, young Africans come face-to-face with a lot of discrimination and stereotyping. It was such a positive experience working directly with them to help them clarify their own ideas for improving their lives. “

Somalian-born Haji Koshin, a 26-year-old Philosophy student, worked on the same project with EVOLVE but his team worked with Assyrian youth.

“All young people have a marginalised voice, but for young refugees it is even more difficult to get their concerns heard. The skills I learned from working with the young people, and also working closely with my team-mates, are extremely valuable. It has been challenging but really rewarding.”

Both Kate and Haji and their teams will present their findings on 3 October at the Refugee Health and Wellbeing Summit, organised by the Ministry of Social Development.

Other Victoria students worked with refugee youth at three Wellington high schools to ascertain why students attend, or don’t attend, the Wellington Homework Club, and to investigate what could encourage more participation.

The fourth team worked on the Just Focus Internet youth project (http://www.justfocus.org.nz) initiated by the Global Education Centre, Wellington. The team is presenting their research at the Just Focus national camp on October 6-8 in Wainuiomata.

Community project partners, like Adam Awad from the Changemakers’ Refugee Forum, have been invited to attend students’ final presentations at a special session at Victoria on Wednesday 5 October.

“We are pleased to be involved in this work with Victoria and are excited by what this partnership holds for the future,” he says. “There is a need for high quality practical research to enhance the resettlement outcomes for refugee communities. Key to the success of this research has been its participatory and empowering methods, which tap into the innovation, creativity and resilience of all the young people involved.”

ENDS

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