Laura and Maighan are two students at the International school in Malta. Laura is 18 and she volunteers at her school and with Spark 15, a refugee group, NGO founded by refugees in Malta. They help youth with education and find ways to better integrate into society. Maighan is 18 and she works at a refugee camp where men get to live, cook, and they’re helped in finding jobs as well as to better integrate with the society.
Laura and Maighan say that they find simple ways to hang out such as dinner, a picnic, bonfire, sing, bring instruments along, magic tricks, play sports or have a game night with people from different countries. “In media, they are portrayed as so different from you, but in reality, it’s just that their story is different, but they are just normal teenagers,” says Laura to which Maighan adds that their stories are “amazing and it is motivating to meet people like that.”
When asked “what do you learn from your refugee friends?”, Maighan responds saying that she hears a lot of love in the stories. Also, you can tell the pain they must have gone through because sometimes they have to leave their family behind and she notes, “it sounds scary.” “Their positivity despite the difficulties puts things in perspective,” Laura adds.
“Showing respect rather than pity” is what Laura recommends when it comes to helping refugees. Both girls agree that it is unnecessary to do the things for refugees that they can do themselves, but it is important to be there for support.
“It’s all the process of realization that we are all kind of the same,” says Maighan, because at the root we have so much in common that there is always something to talk about.
Laura thinks that the biggest thing that needs to change which is also the hardest is the perception of the locals. “The initiative has to come from the locals, so if they are standoffish against refugees, the idea or the plans that the government, however good it may be, implements will not work.” That’s why the integration of the locals in the process would be extremely helpful.
Photo and Video credits: Tdh Lausanne / Rania Mustafa Ali