Youth project celebrates 10 years of helping refugees integrate into Norwich life
06:30 14 December 2012
A charity which helps young refugees and asylum seekers from across the world to integrate into life in Norwich has marked its 10th birthday.
The Norwich International Youth Project was founded by two Kurdish asylum seekers in 2002, and has since helped hundreds of young people from across the world to find their feet in Norwich and settle in the city.
They have included teenagers who have fled conflict in Afghanistan, the genocide in Rwanda and war in the Congo.
Rachael Martis, a project coordinator, said the scope of the NIYP had broadened over the last 10 years in response to the needs of its members.
“It started because two people wanted to find help that was beyond what social services could offer.
“They wanted to learn basic skills, but it has since moved on to building communication skills, and self-esteem.”
The NIYP offers educational and life skills services to 13 to 24-year-olds, and social outings and arts classes to boost their confidence.
“Every year we are looking at adding new things, like employability skills – the things that will allow our members to build lives for themselves,” said Ms Martis.
The charity marked its 10th birthday with a party in Norwich last night, which included dance and musical performances by current NIYP members, and the return of past members.
Helping so many people to play an active part in society in Norwich has been the group’s greatest achievement, she added.
“They have been through so many traumatic things – war, conflict, living on the streets – before they found refuge,” she said.
“So many young people have been able to make lives for themselves in Norwich.”
Over the years, the charity’s work has changed its focus from the weaknesses of refugees and asylum seekers, to their strengths.
“We believe they all have individual strengths and we focus on them, while understanding that there are vulnerabilities.
She added: “They have all gone through bad experiences, and so totally different to what people are doing over here.
“Knowing that there are other who understand can be helpful. We want to work with them to help them through it.
“The future is now focused on making sure the group keeps running, and ensuring we can continue to keep helping these young people.”