"There have never been so many young refugees in the world before"

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Member since March 17, 2015
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Youth involved in the Child Friendly Space in Oslo

Youth involved in the Child Friendly Space in Oslo

Plan International Norway’s Youth Advisory Panel are campaigning in Norway about child refugees. Leon and Håvard, both 18, will be in Turkey for the World Humanitarian Summit and explain why the campaign is important and how you can get involved.

They start with Leon’s story of integrating into Norwegian society as a child refugee after his family fled the Democratic Republic of Congo when we was 4 years old.

Leon’s family were forced to flee from the “The Africa World War” which was a war between eight African countries and over 25 armed groups. The war formally ended in 2003, but the fight for natural resources led to bloody battles and serious abuses against the civilian population. Congo was, and still is, a politically unstable country in central Africa.

Fleeing from Congo to Norway – Leon’s Story.

After a long time on the run, the UN helped us flee Congo. That was a huge relief. Our mindsets changed, from fear to hope. We came to Norway in 2002. Being a small child, I learned the language fast. Also, I joined the local kindergarten, became acquainted with Norwegian children and got rapidly integrated. I joined primary school in 2004. There I got a lot of new friends and I learned and experienced the Norwegian culture. On my spare time I started with activities. I played soccer and badminton. Now, I’m on my second year of high school and I feel like a Norwegian. So yes, I’ve been integrated in a very good way. When I first came here, I remember that everything was so different from what I was used to; the language, the culture, how people behaved, the weather and the climate. Everything, absolutely everything, was completely different.

Today, I am a member of Plan International Norway’s Youth Advisory panel. My family and I traveled to Congo last summer to visit our family for four weeks. Congo is a wonderful country and Bukavu, which is the town where my family lives, is a pleasant town. I got the feeling of coming home. In Norway, I feel very at home, but the word “home” got another meaning when I traveled back to my roots.

Campaign in Norway about Child refugees

Almost 60 million refugees are fleeing their homes, 30 million of them are children. They are facing a new and insecure reality. Plan International Norway’s Youth Advisory Panel has chosen to raise awareness on refugees, because we want to make a change and a greater impact for children in the world.

To kick off the campaign, we put up a tent and a “child friendly space” in Oslo one Saturday in April. Here people could walk around and look photos and short interviews with child refugees, as well as make a 360° virtual reality tour “My New Home” of a refugee camp in Tanzania . The youth members are publishing blog posts every day throughout the campaign period on different topic related to child refugees.

Visiting a Refugee Camp made a huge impression

As a part of our campaign, we decided to send two representatives to visit two refugee camps in Rwanda. We went to Rwanda in March to meet refugee children and bring back material to use during the campaign. We visited Mahama Refugee Camp and Kiziba Refugee Camp. The camps made a strong impression on us. It felt special talking to kids our own age, who lived in a world that felt so far from the one we know. We had a lot in common, but at the same time, we could not relate to their reality at all. When we interviewed them, they told us about kids using alcohol and drugs because they did not have anything else to do. They all told us that they were missing materials, and when we asked what they wished for, they often answered footballs, drawing books, dancing costumes or even shoes.

Youth can make a change!

We believe that through young people, we can build engagement and awareness around child refugees. We can change the local and national society to be more tolerant. If young people like us stand together, we can make a huge impact and influence our government as well as the leaders of the world. Therefore, we would like to challenge you. Stand together with the refugees and show solidarity by publishing which item you would bring with you if you had to flee your home. Choose an emoji and post it on Facebook using this link

We want the future for the refugees to be good, and there have never been so many young refugees in the world before. Our aim is that the rights of the young refugees should be met.

Leon’s story illustrates that we can make a difference. Therefore it is very important that we and other youths throughout the world make an impact, so that there will be more good stories like Leon’s story!

We believe that the “Compact for Youth in Humanitarian Action” being launched during the World Humanitarian Summit is a chance for governments and organization to support young refugees as well as recognize that you people have an essential role to play in humanitarian action.

The next generation will survive. We have a common responsibility for our grandchildren.

Written by Leon and Håvard both members of URO and Global Voice for Change. Find URO on our website and on Facebook and more Global Voice for Change blogs here.

For more blogs by World Humanitarian Summit Youth Delegates click here

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