The eighth year of ARA’s Youth Ambassador program began with a three-day residential camp at the Woodhouse Activity Centre in the Adelaide Hills from 1-3 May.
Thirty-two secondary students from 12 different schools participated, along with three school teachers, four new peer leaders (2018 youth ambassadors), ARA staff and volunteers. The camp was led this year by one of our original Youth Ambassadors, Rachel Nyiramugisha, filling in for the program’s manager, Carly Squire, who is currently on maternity leave. Rachel led a wonderful team including former social work placement student, Ash, current social work placement student, Wenhao, caterer-extraordinaire, Amy, and experienced Youth Ambassador peer leaders Qasem, Fida, Claudetta and Atiu.
ARA’s Youth Ambassador program is a leadership development program for secondary school students in years 10 and 11 that runs from terms 2 to 4 each year. Students from a refugee background, or with a particular interest in refugee issues, are nominated by their schools and by ARA staff to participate. Beginning with the camp, the program provides opportunities in leadership training, public speaking, advocacy and fundraising for ARA. Many of the past youth ambassadors now provide a public face for ARA. They are employed to speak about their experiences as former refugees at schools and public events, at cultural awareness training sessions, to assist with ARA youth programs and to take a lead as peer leaders in ongoing youth ambassador programs.
The 2019 camp incorporated sessions on global refugee issues, personal growth and resilience, panel discussions with peer leaders sharing their experiences as young refugees settling into life in Australia, physical and creative challenges. The camp concluded with students developing action plans for the rest of the year, establishing their challenges to increase awareness at their schools, assist with ARA events and help raise funds for ARA. Students who complete these challenges will graduate as ARA Youth Ambassadors at the ARA annual general meeting later this year. Feedback from students was overwhelmingly positive: It was an unforgettable experience that opened our mind to other people’s cultural background, ideas and perspectives. We had the exciting opportunity to share these experiences with people from many different cultures and make new friendships that will last a lifetime