This year our Wrapping for Refugees shoeboxes have gone virtual.

This festive period, you have the power to make a difference for people like Maryam, Firty and Nawal

Meet Maryam

Maryam, originally from Afghanistan, moved to the UK with her family at the end of 2019. When she first joined a British Red Cross refugee group, she was one of the only girls there. After being granted refugee status, she knew that she wanted to help other young refugee women like herself. As the coronavirus pandemic forced everyone in the UK into lockdown, Maryam worked alongside the British Red Cross to help create a virtual young women’s network.

“With the online groups, all girls are talking to each other. So all of them are comfortable. Some girls might feel like ‘okay, there is a guy or boy, I can't talk properly’. Now they can talk widely and share their problems, their opinions.”

The online network for young refugee women has created a space to have open, honest conversations and connect with others during an isolating time.

“The group is important for me because some of the girls are new to the country. When you come to [a] new country, what are your problems? I faced those problem as well, but now I know how to deal with it. And I can also give suggestion[s] to those young ladies."

For Maryam, being part of the Red Cross women’s group is a place of happiness.

When we talk to each other and help each other, I'm really happy. I hope other girls feel the same.”


Meet Firty

Firty is a young refugee living in London. Conflict forced him to flee his home in Sudan and make the dangerous journey, on his own, to find safety in the UK. When someone recommended he get in touch with our teams here at the British Red Cross, his life began to change.

After growing up watching the Premier League on TV, Firty was supported to find the opportunity to start training as a referee in London. Now, he’s set his sights even higher and dreams of making it to the World Cup.

For Firty, these achievements have only been made possible through the kindness he’s been shown in the UK.

“I feel so lucky to be here. I’ve done so many things and it’s all because this country is so open and it gave me chances. I love this country. It’s given me so much and I’m never going to forget it.”

Firty has been through so much already, but the coronavirus pandemic has created even more obstacles for him.

“Coronavirus has stopped my world. It’s stopped me from seeing people.”

“Projects are affected because everyone is staying in their house right now, it’s difficult. Everything is online. Most of the people who are just coming to this country don’t have access or [the] ability to use the internet.”

Through it all, Firty keeps his positive attitude.

“But young refugees might be motivated by this – it will make it really obvious how important it is to be independent and to learn English as help isn’t always there for them.


Meet Nawal

After Nawal’s grandfather was killed in her home country of Somalia, Nawal was forced to flee at just 16 years old. The experience was extremely traumatic. When she arrived in the UK, she struggled with suicidal thoughts and low confidence.

“The police started to talk to me, but I couldn’t understand anything. I was hungry, I was cold, I didn’t eat for three days. I was thinking, ‘where am I going to go now?’ I felt lonely. It was such a horrible experience to go through when you’re young.”

Nawal joined the British Red Cross Surviving to Thriving project, which gives young refugees life skills, advice, mental health support and leadership opportunities to help them rebuild their lives and thrive in the UK.

Now, there’s no stopping Nawal. She’s given public presentations and addressed MPs at parliamentary events. She hopes to inspire other young female refugees with her confidence and raise awareness of the challenges that they face. Her dream is to become a pilot.

“In my future I want to help other people because I don’t want them to go through that and I want to help people not to feel lonely.”