top of page
  • afrocats

Connection, compassion, justice - insights on an Afrocats placement

Khansa successfully completed a placement with Afrocats in spring 2024 as part of her degree in Applied Child Psychology at Keele University, working alongside Estee and Jordan on our HAF and Our Routes Home projects with sanctuary seeker children and young people.


She reflects on her time with us below - read on to find out more about her experience.


My introduction to the world of young sanctuary seekers 


On the first day of my placement, I was greeted by young people from sanctuary seeker backgrounds who were from a diverse array of cultures and spoke many languages, and who have been displaced from their homelands because of persecution and conflict.

I found myself initially feeling uncertain about the session and who I might be working with, however, the Afrocats team dispelled any fears and provided me with a warm welcome and detailed information about what each session would involve.


We began with introductions, during which I gave the young people more information about myself and my background, and the children and young people followed suit. We then delved into discussions surrounding university placements and the process of gaining admission, with the Afrocats team emphasising the significance of academic performance in pursuing higher education.


I was struck by the participants’ unwavering spirit and determination to seize new opportunities in their lives, and I encouraged them to share their own stories throughout each session.


Establishing a safe environment for self-expression


Developing a secure environment for the young people to freely express themselves and build trust with me was one of the first hurdles I encountered. A great deal of them had been uprooted from their home countries, which understandably had left them traumatised, and on an emotional and mental ‘high alert.’


However, I developed a rapport with them by using methods like active listening, validation, and empathy, all of which are based on the ideas behind trauma-informed care.

In doing so, I created a sense of safety and trust in each young person by recognising their experiences and valuing their feelings where they may not have experienced this in the past.


Fun exercises to create a safe emotional foundation

My method for working with children in the refugee and asylum seeker community focuses on engaging them with activities to encourage emotional expression and bonding, and so each activity, from cardboard crafts to circus play, was thoughtfully crafted to promote creativity, self-expression, and teamwork.

However, I soon discovered that some younger participants were experiencing obstacles to fully participating due to linguistic barriers and past trauma, so by drawing on practices rooted in attachment theory, I stressed the value of building a safe foundation and fostering supportive relationships to encourage their resilience and emotional regulation.

Managing challenging behaviour with compassion

I experienced occasional moments of difficult behaviour from some young people which tested my empathy and tolerance - for example, they sometimes conveyed complex feelings ranging from angry outbursts to tears of frustration.

But by using methods from positive behavior support (PBS) and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to find out what emotions and triggers were at the core of their behaviour, I worked with them to help develop coping mechanisms and self-regulation techniques which included offering them constructive criticism, establishing boundaries, and giving guidance in a compassionate and non-judgemental manner.

Looking back on my experience


As I think back on working with the young sanctuary seekers, the tenacity and strength they showed on a daily basis has really humbled me. Each small but significant encounter, from the young person who drew comfort from making his national flag, to the group of friends who found connection while playing football, will always hold a special place in my heart.


Through both happy times and times of sadness and reflection on my placement, I have gained priceless knowledge about empathy, compassion, and the transformational potential of harnessing human connection when it is needed most.


A dedication to both personal development and social justice


When I started my placement with Afrocats, I had no idea how much working with refugee children would change my life . Each session has demonstrated the tenacity and strength of these young people, from the first few minutes of introductions to the moving farewells.


As a result, I am determined to carry on working with refugee children in the future, and to continue speaking up for their welfare and their rights. I want to make the world a more compassionate and equitable place for all children and young people, regardless of their circumstances or background, by giving voice to their experiences, spreading awareness of the situations they face, and advocating for more inclusive policies.


Working with refugee and community centre children and young people has been a hugely meaningful experience for me, full of growth, joy, sorrow, and all the emotions in between - and I believe by harnessing compassion and understanding towards others, as well as dedication to social justice, we can make the future for refugee children and young people everywhere much brighter, and far more promising.

Interested in arranging a work placement to help improve the lives of sanctuary seekers across Manchester?

Drop us an email at admin[at] - we look forward to hearing from you.


bottom of page