Home is where help is: family of teenage refugee explain what it's like arriving in Preston with nothing and nobody
A teenage refuge says the work of a Lancashire charity has been vital in settling into a new life in Preston.
Javaris, who is 15, arrived in England from Trinidad on Christmas Eve 2019. He came only with his mum Tricia and went from sweltering days of "having the AC on full blast all the time", to a bitter English winter and nobody to call a friend.
"It was very upsetting", said Tricia.
"We had to leave our father Jason behind, only to be reunited with him a year later. Our lives were turned upside down, but it was a matter of staying alive."
Shortly after arriving in Preston, Tricia and Javaris were contacted by the Lancashire Youth Challenge, an organisation based in Lancaster offering a programme of regular physical fitness training, mindfulness wellbeing, cultural and creative activity as well as peer mentor training and personal coaching to help youngsters build resilience and overcome personal challenges.
With support from Lancashire County Council and Lancaster University, each week between 30 and 35 young people engage in activities in Lancaster and Preston through the organisation.
Tricia had no hesitation about Javaris joining the group, and the organisation also helped the families of youngsters to connect.
Tricia said: "They got in touch with us and they set about helping us network with other refugee families. We found it very challenging, but in them, we found an amazing, amazing team.
"Guy was amazing, and Javaris has made some great friends.
"It's very reassuring to know other people who have had to leave everything behind. You listen to their stories and they're all the same.
"There is an underlying undertone of survival and now we're all friends and all really determined."
Since joining, Javaris has become involved in sporting activities, team-building exercises and even in the production of a film about the project called My Journey, My Destination.
The film has been produced by six young people aged 13-18 working with the awardwinning writer, Amina Atiq. It focuses on migration and movement and is a celebration of their new lives in the UK.
It was filmed on location in Avenham Park, St Stephen’s Primary School and Church and in Preston city centre. Scenes were also filmed in one refugee’s home in Blackpool.
Throughout the project, the teenage refugees have attended a variety of arts and outdoor activities including a visit to the Lake District which helped them to explore ideas of place, identity, migration, movement and resettlement. Two refugees have achieved bronze Arts Awards as a result.
Tricia said: "It's a really well-rounded experience. They went up to the Lake District for two days and did so many different activities and team building. Then soon they're going away again and there is this sense of family.
"As a mum, I was quite worried about Javaris, about how he would settle and how he would get on in school. But Lancashire Youth Challenge have been so supportive, it's been amazing. It's a real family network."
Javaris said: "The best thing is that I've made friends with other people. When I first came here, I knew nobody. But we have been welcomed and I have settled in really well at school.."
Javaris is interested in taking up medicine and will be taking his GCSEs next summer.
He added: "A massive thank you to Guy (Christiansen), who has introduced me to everyone and gets involved in everything."
Guy Christiansen, chief executive of Lancashire Youth Challenge, said: "It has been an honour and a privilege to work with such an amazingly talented and committed team of young people; who together have produced an impactful and meaningful film.
It is always heartening to hear that our work has enabled young people to achieve personal success, learn new skills and have a platform to express their thoughts, feeling and opinions on the world."
In June, LYC was honoured with a Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.