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Last year approximately 3900 unaccompanied refugee children seeking asylum came to Sweden. As well as having endured long and often times traumatic journeys, their introduction to Swedish society in general — and the Swedish school system in particular — is often very challenging, putting even more strain on the child’s sense of security and well-being. It can be difficult for teachers and for fellow pupils and students to understand and identify with their situation and the traumatic experiences that have shaped many of these refugee children’s lives.

By telling a few of these children’s stories in a clear, inspiring and engaging way we aim to open up for dialogue about diversity, about people’s different backgrounds and equal worth. We want to encourage a curious attitude towards each other’s differences and promote dialogue about topics concerning identity, creating a sense of belonging, and promoting mutual respect.

Friends works to combat and prevent bullying and the violation of children’s rights in Swedish schools. Together with UNHCR, the United Nations’ refugee agency, we’ve put together campaign material that is intended for pupils and class teachers in secondary schools in Sweden (years 7-9). The campaign aims to act as a catalyst and tool to help create a safe and inclusive environment in school, where there is respect for equality, and for all children’s backgrounds and stories.

The Aim of the Campaign

This project aims to prevent prejudice and alienation by challenging negative attitudes and increasing awareness and understanding of cultural differences, not only relating to unaccompanied refugee children, but all people who have been forced to flee their home country. Our hope is that this project will lead to a safer environment for all students and adults in Swedish schools — an environment free from harassment and alienation.

Campaign Content and Material

Comic Book

 The comic book ”We shall meet again, Sanam”, depicts the long and dangerous journey undertaken by a 14-year-old boy, fleeing to Sweden alone, all the way from Afghanistan. The comic book is available for teachers to order free of charge. It is accompanied by additional teaching material addressing topics such as being forced to flee one’s country, children’s rights, identity, and integration.

Film

 The film “Shadi” tells the story of a girl separated from her mother and of the memories that are replayed in her mind as she struggles to start a new life on her own in Sweden. ”Shadi” is a tale of longing, separation, trust, and new beginnings. A story about the personal courage of a child overcoming a crisis and learning to trust her new surroundings and accept her past. The accompanying teaching material addresses topics such as new beginnings, separation, identity, and longing.

Theatre Performance and Lecture

Our theatre performance and accompanying lecture has visited 170 schools and educated around 16000 students across Sweden. The performance is no longer available but the remaining campaign material, including the shortfilm “Shadi”, can still be ordered here on our website.

The production is written and directed by Shebly Niavarani, who is of Iranian origin, and is currently employed by one of Stockholm’s leading theatre scenes, Stockholms Stadsteater. He is well known in Sweden, both as an actor in popular Swedish movies and TV-shows, and as an award-winning director. Niavarani’s production addresses issues such as alienation, finding identity in a new group setting, and not only being the new kid in school but also a refugee. It also covers themes concerning dual-nationality and multiple cultural identities, as well as the basic need every child has to be themselves, regardless of their background. The accompanying lecture is held by a well-trained and skilled lecturer from Friends and delves deeper into subjects raised in the monologue.

Material for Teachers

 Each of the campaign components includes accompanying in-depth teaching material that addresses themes concerning children’s rights, being forced to flee, identity, prejudice, integration, and more. The teaching material is tailored to fit the Swedish national curriculum and its goals and guidelines for grading in LGR 11, and can therefore easily become a natural part of a school’s program and existing anti-discriminatory protocols. The material emphasises the impact of societal structures and social norms on values, opinions, and worldviews.

The teaching material has been developed by Friends, in collaboration with representatives from The Living History Forum (a Swedish agency aiming to create public awareness about crimes against humanity, in order to promote tolerance, democracy, and human rights) and UNHCR. Throughout the process, the material has been developed drawing on input from a focus group made up of teachers and principals, as well as educators from Friends. We have also involved a focus group of secondary school pupils who have provided us with input and valuable pointers. The material has been thoroughly checked by quality controllers from Friends and UNHCR, resulting in what we believe to be thorough, comprehensible, and high quality teaching material.

Narratives - Why Flee?

 The ”Hello Sweden” campaign aims to illustrate some of the real life personal narratives behind the statistics. On the website you’ll find the engaging and emotional stories of young people who have fled their home countries and come as unaccompanied refugees to Sweden to build a new life. These are suited to be used as examples in your lessons.

“Hello Sweden” has also worked together with a Swedish public service TV station to produce a prize-winning TV-series called “Unaccompanied Refugee Children”, which is available on the website as part of the campaign material.

Read the narratives – Why Flee?

Creative Competition

 One component in the campaign is a creative competition that aims to spark young people’s imagination and ameliorate their ability to express themselves. In order to be heard, people also need to be able to tell their story. And young people need the support of adults asking questions in order to help them find their voice. Together with leading Swedish children’s book publisher Bonnier Carlsson we encouraged young people to tell their stories in a creative task called “Your Backpack”. The aim was to imagine what it would be like to come to a new country alone as a refugee and to draw or write a story based on that experience. A selection of the contributions will be chosen for publication in a book by the summer of 2014.

Read more about the competition “Your Backpack”

For You as a Parent

Here you can read our information folder addressed towards parents with children in school year 8.

Information for you as a parent

Several reports and writings have been used in the preparatory research for developing the project material.

See List of References

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