Last year we contacted a Red Cross centre for unaccompanied young refugees and offered them visits to Ananda Gaorii for activities put on by the volunteers. The staff were a bit skeptical about our motives at first (probably frightened by my beard and orange robes) but after some persistent followup from the volunteers they finally agreed to organize a visit. So in early June 8 teenage boys from Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Ethiopia visited Ananda Gaorii together with one of their carers. Oddly enough the youngest one was the most confident and the clear leader of the group. These boys were ones whose asylum applications had been rejected and who would, sooner or later, be sent back to their countries. They didn’t have much to look forward to.
Our volunteers took them on a tour of Ananda Gaorii showing them our bakery, the various food growing projects and the Ashram. After that they organized some music and movement activities encouraging the boys to let go a bit and express themselves. The boys reacted well. After that they were invited to join in a drum circle which got some of them up and dancing too. It was Ramadan (fasting month) so they were all fasting and couldn’t stay for dinner and were tired by the end of the afternoon. Nevertheless they seemed to enjoy themselves and were enthusiastic about visiting again. They agreed next time to prepare some traditional food and teach us some of their traditional dances. We received a letter from their center a few days later confirming that they had a really good time and were keen to come back. One of the boys had asked if he could quit school and come to Ananda Gaorii to volunteer.
Sadly, only a week later, we got news that their centre would be closed and the boys and girls would be moved to other centres. The government was cutting back. Things moved quickly and the following week we were invited to a goodbye party. Three of our volunteers attended and told us that the kids were pretty down (they were being split up also) and that the young boy who had been the active leader in the group had been very withdrawn and silent.
We are sad for the young refugees and disappointed that we could not go forward with this project. We will try contacting another refugee centre (about an hour away) to see if they are willing to travel to visit us. We will also contact families who have been given asylum in our area to see if there is anything we can offer.