Cambridge sisters launch charity for child refugees in memory of murdered brother
Teenage sisters who witnessed the murder of their brother before fleeing Iraq to the UK to escape persecution have won a bursary to set up a support website for other child refugees.
Hawraa and Ameera so moved the judges of a teenage business and social enterprise award with their story and the idea for the website that the organisers have offered them £3k a year for set up and running costs.
The girls, who came to the UK in 2018 were also joined in success by fellow student Chesterton Community College student Cameron Chappell who won a runner up prize for his idea to launch a cereal cafe.
Proud headteacher Donna Hubbard-Young said of the sisters: “They came to us traumatised, with no English and only suitcases. They have come so far and they are incredibly grateful for the support they have received since arriving but they are conscious that all of the early support was from adults and they would have really benefited from being in contact with some teenagers who had come to the UK in similar circumstances and could give advice on areas of interest to teenagers and demonstrate that even though things look bleak they will improve. The girls' idea is a website Called New Beginnings with information for teenagers by teenagers, a chat function to allow newly settled teenage refugees the opportunity to put questions to the girls and a video call facility for schools to arrange a video call with the girls with newly settled teenagers.”
At the end of the summer term, the students entered the national Side Hustle competition organised by Your Game Plan and sponsored by finnCap and ACCA. The competition was to submit an idea for a business or social enterprise in a bid to win a share of £10,000 towards setting up their idea.
The two Chesteron Community College teams went to the finnCap offices in London for the final where they were alongside 23 other teams who had to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges.
“I went to school with my sister and when we arrived back home our house was on the floor, there was no building left.
Hawraa and Ameera joined the school as refugees from Iraq in 2018 having been through an incredibly traumatic persecution, including witnessing the murder of their brother, Omar.
Hawraa says: “Because my dad had in the past fixed some cars for the American army, that caused problems, and some people sent us a written message along with an empty gun. It told us not to leave the house or to change our religious ways. We went to the police to tell them but we didn’t know that the police were already working with this community so it made it worse for us.
“I went to school with my sister and when we arrived back home our house was on the floor, there was no building left. Luckily my mum was in my grandfather’s house and my dad was working. Then we moved to my grandfather’s house and they took my big brother and broke his leg. When they came back they killed my other brother. We are starting this website in Omar's memory”
Ms Hubbard-Young, explains that Hawraa still suffers from PTSD as a result of witnessing the murder.
She says that the judges of the competition were so moved when they heard of the sister’s tragic experiences that, “there wasn’t a dry eye in the building”.
Now the sisters want to help other young people arriving as refugees to cope with the experience and give them a friendly person to talk with.
“We wanted to set up this website for other refugees coming to England because we have experienced the things they will have experienced,” says Hawra.
“Or maybe they have had things even worse. They will not have friends when they come here at first and they won’t speak English so they will want to talk to another teenager in Arabic.
“We have had some very nice teachers but they will want to speak to teenagers like them and learn about how to study here, and how to understand everything. At first they may not have any energy and they will feel worried and nervous.”
Ameera, 15 added: “At first students in your new school might not accept you so it’s important to have other refugees to talk to. We hope our idea can be turned into a small charity.”
Ms Hubbard-Young added: “Everyone was moved by Hawraa and Ameera's story and astounded by how far the girls had come. So much so they didn't win part of the Side Hustle prize money but instead finnCap have agreed to fund their idea with £3000 a year for three years.”
The other success from Chesterton was Cameron Chappell, 15, who won £500 to put towards his idea of running a take away cereal business from a van on the shared site between school and the Chesterton Sports centre where customers can choose from a range of cereals, toppings and milks. He has has been anonymously match funded by someone for a further £500.
He said: “I was inspired by a cafe called Cereal Killers which just sells cereal. My personal favourite is granola with chocolate bits but we are going to serve seven different toppings and a range of cereals as well as loads of different types of milk. I was shocked but very appreciative when I found out I was a runner up.”