Volunteering with SB OverSeas… crossing the borders

27 Feb

Volunteering with SB OverSeas… crossing the borders

If you think  my following words will describe to you what refugee children and youth currently living in Brussels witnessed during the war, their dangerous journey to Europe and their everyday life, I am sorry to disappoint you. I will guide you through another side of refugee life, because, there is no single side of a story.

When I first stepped into each one of  three different reception centres to participate in SB-ESPOIR activities with refuge children and youth,  the single side of the immigration story got nothing but stronger… I could feel the cold temperature even indoors, the human smell mixed with the smell of hot meals offered by some NGOs and many adults waiting for medical, legal or other forms of help with visible sadness and hopelessness.

This pre-settled picture suddenly changed with the arrival of the youth. It seemed like their energy invaded the surroundings. When I began with my fellow volunteers the art crafts and sports activities, I totally forgot the context where I was. I was overwhelmed with the youth creativity, questions, eagerness to learn and endless discussion about their favourite football or cricket teams. It looked to me like if I was with normal youth… “Normal”? I thought…What does this word mean? The refugee youth had enough dreams to fill the sea they crossed to reach Europe, a vivid imagination about Europe as a paradise and high expectations for a better future. The question was not if they were “normal”, but  rather if I was able to give them what I received as a child and teen-ager in terms of education, self‑confidence and secure environment to become who I am today…

Of course, working with the immigrant youth was not always filled with roses… I have witnessed anger crises, uneasy discussions, abstinence to get engaged in activities… But whose adolescence was devoid of these? Add these usual issues, the difficulty of accepting their refugee status,  the separation from their families, the good memories they miss and terrible events they try hard to overcome. 

Each activity with SB-ESPOIR left me with a mix of feelings: the joy of being with such wonderful youth, the resilience I learnt from them and the fear their new home will deny them a decent education and respectable job.

The lesson? In one word, the immigrant youth POTENTIAL…

Each time I choose to stick to my comfort zone, I remember the youth courage to take dangerous journeys  for a better life…

Each time I overestimate the obstacles facing my dreams, I remember how  these youth bypassed the sea, the desert and the mountains to reach Europe…

The potential of the refugee youth lies in their past that gives them the strength to learn and the aspiration for a better future for themselves and their new home.

Would you like to learn from their example? Cross your borders!!

Nahla Hussein volunteered from 2016 to 2018 with SB Espoir, a project of SB OverSeas that does activities and workshops with refugee youth at reception centres in Brussels.

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