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Creating a deeper understanding of Validation

Understanding: One of the most important aspects of working with people from a forced migration background is understanding that going through exile and leaving your hometown by force, is out of your control. Think about any situation in life that we don’t have control of; losing a loved one, having a car accident, going through a break up, being ill and many other examples like this, that we, as human beings, go through. These situations are tough, and might also be traumatic. 

Think about a person from a forced migration background that is going through the asylum process of becoming a refugee.  They don’t like to be reminded of this difficult situation and decisions they had to make. So when it comes to community projects, the first and most important point is to help and support them but while recognising the validation of them as families, children and people.

When talking to people from a forced migration background, the language used can have a sympathetic tone, which can be infantilising or disempowering. Instead, consider focusing on the positive aspect of someone’s life, like their profession and what they studied back home. You could find out about their favourite book, singer or film. Not only does it help to understand each other’s culture, but also helps to take the focus from exile and the situation of being an asylum seeker or a refugee and recognises a shared humanity.

Challenges: People who are going through asylum or recently settled with refugee status, might be feeling confused and isolated. There might be so many questions that they have regarding different aspects of the system, such as housing, social services or employment. You might be in a situation where you are asked to answer those questions and you’re not able to. This is ok. You don’t have to know everything or be able to answer all questions. Just think about how to say this appropriately.

Recognition: The most important act is first to understand that a person might have been a professional in their home country, and have a great deal of skills and experience, and now really need to access some help and information. Please make sure that you kindly take the person to the staff of the organisation you are volunteering, and tell them their questions. It’s such a huge act to assure someone that we are helping and that we listen to their questions. It’s important to know that it’s not about quickly finding the answer, but to give the feeling that we are here for them and we listen to them. That feeling of being listened to and valued is life changing and people will take that kind act to their future development.

Look at the current countries that have the highest refugees in the UK and find out about their culture.

What areas are you interested in? Food? Music? Dance? Make a list that would help you to focus a lovely conversation and exchange cultural POVs.