9 Jul 2009

The Children's Society is celebrating the achievements of the Young Refugees’ Media Project, which completed three years of successful work at the end of June. Funded by the BIG Lottery Fund, the project has offered communication and media training to young refugees and asylum seekers between 16 and 21.

The aim of the project was to encourage young refugees and asylum-seekers to get involved in the public debate about the issues that concern them. In a climate where the mainstream media often fails to address these issues in a sympathetic, fair or even balanced way, it is increasingly important that asylum seekers and refugees, themselves, develop the skills and the confidence to talk to others about their lives.

The young people involved in the project have accomplished a great deal in the last few years. The group have made a DVD and guide to reporting on asylum and refugee issues in partnership with the Society of Editors, which was promoted at the Society of Editors conference and sent to newspaper editors and journalists across the country. The Young Refugees’ Media Project also sponsored a new award at the Press Gazette Regional Press Awards, which recognised excellence in reporting on asylum and refugee issues.

The young people involved also used the skills they learnt during the project to engage with BBC journalists about refugee issues and to do interviews and write articles for major media outlets including Society Guardian and Al-Jazeera.

Sanjay Dighe, Chair of the England BIG Lottery Fund, comments on the Young Refugees’ Media Project:

“The BIG Lottery Fund aims to support those most in need and we recognise how- especially for many refugee children- this is characterised by a sense of isolation and of going through separate transitions. This is why I have been especially impressed by The Children’s Society’s actions in helping young refugees settle into their new communities and contribute to the society they now live in.

They work both with the children themselves and with people in the wider community in order to generate mutual understanding. By taking this approach The Children’s Society is finding solutions which will be sustainable far beyond the period of our funding.

The Children’s Society sponsors an award for the regional journalist who provides the best coverage of refugee issues. I was privileged to attend the awards ceremony and meet the young people who had chosen the winner. Two of them made short but powerful speeches which visibly moved even the hard-bitten journalists present. They certainly showed how effective The Children’s Society can be in improving the life chances of young people”.

The lessons learnt during the Young Refugees Media Project have set the stage for broader activities by The Children's Society, which aim to help the young people we work with achieve a more positive image in the media.  Our projects across the country are empowering children and young people to communicate with others about their lives through innovative ways, including making a documentary, making hip-hop music and putting on an exhibition about refugees and asylum-seekers.