Youth Work Ireland Tipperary
15 young people from Syria (Syrian refugees)
We wanted to support the young people in telling their stories; to build confidence through the storytelling process; to utilise the digital skills they already possess and ultimately to connect the stories they created with a wider audience as a teaching resource.
Many young people come to live in a new country with their family, or sometimes on their own, because of circumstances that are out of their control. This movement away from all that is familiar can be very disrupting to a young person’s sense of self. Some young people carry painful memories with them. At the same time, moving to and settling in a new country can also be a period of discovery, of learning new things. For some young people, their stories are the stuff of everyday life, familiar to us already. We saw this practice as an opportunity to create inquiry, connection and interest between a wider audience and young people from Syria at a time when Islamophobia is on the rise; we wanted to offer an offer an opportunity to break down barriers, acknowledge difference and also to reflect on common experiences shared by young people.
We started with an exhibition at which many of the young people chose to tell their stories in front of an audience from the local community as well as their families. Importantly, the exhibition panels displayed the stories in both English and Arabic. This was important for the families of the young people, it was an acknowledgement of the importance of their identity. Subsequently, we developed a teaching resource http://youthworktipperary.ie/blog/whats-the-photostory-syria-tipperary/ for youth and community workers to facilitate a wider engagement with the young people’s stories. One of the young people will co-facilitate a training session with a key youth worker at an upcoming event, using the resource. The exhibition has been exhibited at local schools and local authority spaces.
We ran it over 10 weeks, with three different groups and approaching the age groups differently; being flexible and adapting schedules and locations where necessary. For the older group, we worked separately with the boys and girls and used an informal conversational approach to identifying the stories. We worked in a more structured way with the younger cohort (9-12).
Trust between the youth worker and the young people and their families is key. Understand the pedagogical approach of Augusto Boal and adapting this to the context was key. Use of smartphones and ipads was a key aspect of the project.
There is a teaching resource http://youthworktipperary.ie/blog/whats-the-photostory-syria-tipperary/ for youth and community workers to facilitate a wider engagement with the young people’s stories.
The young people have seen the evolution of the project over time and have connected more with it as it has developed. It has been important to them as they feel that they are seen, that they themselves have been acknowledged and witnessed in this process.
The practise is in a process of ongoing evaluation and review through feedback from the young people and feedback from training events.
What has the practice brought to your organisation’s youth work? It has facilitated the building of ongoing relationship between the youth service and the Syrian families. It has also created a resource for supporting diversity training within the organisation and has increased the intercultural competency and human rights understanding within the organisation. It has also facilitated the youth service in delivering training with the project participants!