It’s a project that aimed to bring young people from Carrick together with young Zimbabwean guys who are seeking asylum here. But the reaction to the idea when Tell It In Colour pitched it to the teenagers on our first night in their community centre was pretty adverse.
“They were like I’m not being seen around them – I don’t want them down, I’m scared,” one of the young people summed up afterwards.
“We were thinking they’d be over here claiming benefits. Why are you bringing people like that over here.”
But on week two, Nicho & Stanley – both from Zimbabwe – came with us to meet the young people. Everyone was wondering how this would go. But despite some hesitancy there were instant connections – introductions were made & the chat began. The focus of this night was on hearing stories from each others’ culture; from catching chickens in a Zimbabwean village to the heart-wrenching decision to leave families & your country behind.
“We think we get it tight over here – if we don’t get the track-suit or pair of shoes we want,” Justin says. “But then seeing what they have to go through…”
But it was week three where the real reaching out came. The group mapped out their own life stories on paper & then got the chance to share with each other. From that came moments of honesty & connection.
Stanley, who’s lived in Belfast for three years explained what motivates him to tell his story: “Just this week I visited a prison for young offenders – so somehow I feel like young people need to get the chance to hear our stories & from our experiences.”
And for Emma, from Carrick, Stanley’s story made her think: “I saw that no matter what he always looked for the positives & the hope – & that I should do that too.”
While Justin was left in awe at what the guys had overcome: “They wouldn’t have left if they didn’t have to – having to leave your family with nothing but the clothes on your back & having to leave the country takes some set of stones.”
By the end of the project some of the young people were almost offering their home to the guys. It’s a response that has been really moving for Nicho -
“With this group, they have shown me lots of encouragement & lots of love & I’m willing to work with them for the rest of my life as long as I’m here.”