In 2012 the ‘Hostile Immigration Environment’ act was passed by the then Home Secretary, Theresa May. These policies were designed to make day-to-day life as tough as possible for vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers without access to the correct paperwork in the UK. In the years since, the UK government has passed more policies which ensure that life is particularly difficult for anyone arriving in the UK seeking safety.
Our organisation has a long history of championing the rights of refugees and asylum seekers. We have worked with multiple migrant community organisations who support young people from refugee backgrounds and have seen first-hand how hostile and broken the UK asylum system can be. In 2014 we received funding from the National Lottery Community Fund that allowed us to conceive of a way to engage children and young people in schools with thinking about the rights of refugees and migrants. This led to the creation of animations, creative workbooks and info booklets all focused on increasing awareness and empathy through creative activities and myth-busting.
One of the animations that was developed was our ‘Help Them Feel at Home’ short film about a young refugee named Sana, her toy called Dino, and their flight from war to safety in the UK. In the animation Sana and Dino face homesickness when they first arrive, but a welcoming attitude from others in their class helps them to feel at ease in their new home. The animation has an activity book that can be used alongside it filled with creative tasks and thought-provoking questions. The concept for this animation came about when we received feedback from schools in our network that there was a lack of high-quality resources available for younger students about refugee rights. This was also a request that we received from the organisers of Refugee Week, as it was clear that most downloadable resources in their education guide were aimed at adolescents.
The process of creating this animation unfolded during our sessions with a few members from Brighter Futures, which is a group of young migrants and refugees who campaign for change. Their lived experiences informed the story of Sana and her dinosaur, and the story was written in collaboration with our associate artist and poet Arji Manuelpillai. The animation itself was designed by Woven Ink with sound design by Ben Moore after many brainstorming sessions and design meetings to pin down the look and feel.
The launch of ‘Help them feel at Home’ took place in mid-2020 when the pandemic caused the closure of schools for long periods of time. We responded by making the animation and accompanying creative activity resources available free to download online, so that schools could reach young people in an engaging way. The launch coincided with Refugee Week in June, which up until that point had involved Kazzum entering schools to deliver workshops and assemblies on empathy and understanding around what it is like to be an asylum seeker or refugee. Launching these materials online meant that our advocacy work could continue during a period of such instability and reach more young people across the country.
In 2022 we were grateful to be able to deliver workshops in-person in schools once again. Our associate artists visited primary and secondary schools across London to support empathic thinking through ‘Help Them Feel at Home’ and other animations that we have co-produced with members of Brighter Futures such as ‘Joe Like This’. As with previous years we were surprised and encouraged by the depth of compassionate responses from the children and young people that we met.
In the time since ‘Help Them Feel at Home’ was made there has been a dramatic increase in misinformation and vitriol towards refugees and asylum seekers spread online and in print media. New policies such as the ‘Illegal Migration’ Bill have been written up to make things more difficult for those seeking sanctuary in the UK. Our organisation stands with refugees and asylum seekers in the UK and all over the world, and we will continue to advocate for their rights. Spreading awareness through our work, including animations such as ‘Help Them Feel at Home’ are one part of this, and we can only hope that the world creates a more welcoming and inclusive future for all.
Thank you to Kitty for sharing this insight on Kazzum’s work to help children and young people understand the rights of refugees and migrants. You can find out more about Kazzum Arts here.
Blue Cabin is also delivering a Live Classroom on supporting young refugees and asylum seekers, as part of our Creative Life Story Work programme. You can find out more and book a place here.