Surviving to Thriving - our work supporting young refugees - Refugee Council
October 19, 2017

Surviving to Thriving – our work supporting young refugees

Together with the British Red Cross and Uprising and funded by the People’s Postcode Lottery, the Refugee Council supports young refugees and people seeking asylum who are dealing with the often horrific effects of trauma. Jet Hardinge from our Leeds office explains the highs and lows of this demanding yet vital work…

“A ‘typical’ day is hard to put into words because everyday is unique. Although one thing that doesn’t change is my morning coffee – my go-go juice!

I work with separated children aged between 11 and 18.

These children fled their homes because of war and persecution and arrived in the UK completely alone.  My role is to support them with expressing their feelings and we do this by developing strategies designed to get them talking and expressing themselves through creative means. Ours service changes organically – we are developing and improving it everyday. We get new referrals almost daily which is really encouraging.

I came to the Refugee Council about six months ago having worked as a therapist for several years, specialising in loss and grief. I worked as a Project Manager for a bereavement and general counselling service and also managed a paediatric palliative care service.  My role at the Refugee Council presented a really new and exciting challenge for me. Though I was experienced in working with people dealing with extremely difficult circumstances, I had limited experience of working with refugees and I really wanted to develop it.

The people I see are all very different.

Their experiences and the way in which they see the world is completely unique. However a common theme with working with separated children is loss and grief – loss of their home, their families and their entire way of life.

For that reason there are many challenges involved in my work. On a daily basis we see and hear about terrible trauma. For me the saddest thing is hearing a child say they would rather die than return to their own country – and knowing that they truly mean it.

But of course there are many fantastic things about this work

and it’s hard to say what the best thing is – there are so many aspects I love! I think it has to be seeing people taking small steps and creating changes that once seemed impossible. There are so many success stories which are amazing to behold. One young person I worked with was unable to talk about his experience because it was simply too traumatic for him. By creating a safe space that to enabled him to process his experience, he came to a point where the trauma is no longer the first and last thing he sees when he closes his eyes. Another young person I worked with said to me, “talking clears my brain and my heart”.

Working with people therapeutically when there are huge language barriers can be a challenge, although it’s also an opportunity for children to learn English and for me to learn new languages too!”

For more information about the Surviving to Thriving project go to: