40 BA final year social work, with their tutor Dr Sweta Rajan-Rankin, recently participated in the The Walk with Amal, featuring a giant 9-year-old Muslim refugee puppet girl called Little Amal who is looking for her mother. Little Amal’s epic journey comes to the University of Kent as part of the Refugee Tales and the Signature Research Theme for Migration and Movement. She represents the unaccompanied asylum-seeking minors who have been victims of forced displacement and whose voices are seldom heard.
Basma el Doukhi, a GCDC sponsored PhD student, spoke to the social work students about her own experience. Dressed in a traditional Palestinian attire, Basma who is refugee herself, invited the students to think about what it feels like to be a stateless person, to struggle through multiple displacements and then to be met by a hostile environment upon arriving at the UK.
This was a very moving and inspiring experience for the social work students, one of whom noted: “It is one thing to read about the issues of refugees and migration, another to experience first-hand the testimony of someone with lived experience. Looking at little Amal, I feel like I can finally listen to the silent voices of all those children who have suffered in this conflict”.
Dr Bridget Ng’andu, Founding Director of Social Workers Without Borders (SWWB) highlighted the importance of these public engagement activities in getting students to engage in radical social work. “This march was important not only for the extremely important cause it represents, but also in bringing together our students and local community in meaningful activism. The use of performative arts was incredibly impactful and allowed for those that took part to emotionally connect with refugee action and experience”, observed lecturer in social work Dr Carin Tunacker who was also present at the Walk.