Young refugees and asylum seekers in South Africa are living with complex histories of pain, loss and violence as they work to build their lives. The strength they have shown to navigate extreme adversity in their pasts risks being undermined in their present as they deal with unprocessed trauma, everyday xenophobia, crime and the inefficient and corrupt processing of documentation. This renewed trauma deeply effects young people’s mental health and wellbeing, fracturing their sense of self and belonging at a critical stage of their development.
AMP youth programme
The AMP youth programme seeks to empower young people and build their self-esteem so they can reach out and help others. We do this through a holistic programme that includes youth support groups co-led by young people and AMP youth facilitators, leadership and peer educator training, holiday workshops (including sports and art), and tutoring.
“It is not easy to find someone who is there and willing to listen to you and who just gives you that space to talk openly without being judged. We have a safe space and then within that space we are creating friendship. Then people say I can rely on that friend from AMP because he knows my story and he can understand me. So I can trust him because he has not judged me because of who I am.”
Olivier, a young man from DR-Congo
“When I came into AMP, I finally found people that could relate to my story. It is support, it helps you grow, I mean I can say I started finding my roots. So I grew and I started getting sunshine which is like love and support from my friends and started getting family instead of friends. What I lack outside [the group], I found it here, and I found a way of finding it outside too.”
Rosine, a young woman from DR-Congo
Building Bridges Initiatives
AMP also runs Building Bridges programmes focused at building social cohesion between young asylum-seekers, refugees and their South African peers. We realise that many South African young people are also vulnerable, and our aim is that these youth can heal together and build bridges in their communities based on the experiences shared.
“The idea to bring different people in regard to countries, religion, race and gender helped us to evaluate ourselves and see a different perspective to the stereotypes that put people in a certain box or criteria. This has opened my mind and changed my opinion, it helped me to interact and it helped me to be me. This camp gave me hope.”
Esethu, a young man from South Africa
Youth-led transformative story-work
An integral part of our work with young people involves creating space for their stories. We do this within our support groups and we do this through arts-based practices that enable creative expression.
Creative storytelling helps young people to have control over the narratives that shape their identities and the tools to build their sense of self and pathways towards belonging. It is a process that through listening and learning aims to drive personal and collective transformation in young lives.