Surviving extreme poverty, seeing members of his own family killed, and witnessing the aftermath of the genocide in Rwanda before escaping to make a new life in the UK as a refugee.
This is the story of Alex Ntung which is the foundation for a talk he will give at the British Museum in London on Friday, 24 June as part of events to mark Refugee Week across the UK.
Entitled Between Two Worlds, the talk tells the story not just of his escape from his home in the Democratic Republic of Congo via Rwanda to the UK, but how migrants to Britain often contribute their own rich and valuable culture to the communities they become part of.
It perfectly encapsulates the theme of Refugee Week this year, which is Welcome.
Alex is Head of Education for Migrant Help UK, the country’s largest charity offering advice and support services to vulnerable migrants, asylum seekers and refugees.
His talk is one of a number of events the charity is running to mark Refugee Week from 19 June.
The Week, launched worldwide in 1998, aims to counter public and media misconceptions about asylum seekers and refugees. It’s run by a range of organisations, including Migrant Help UK.
In the UK, a programme of arts, cultural and educational events and activities celebrate the contribution of refugees to our society. It also promotes a better understanding of why people seek sanctuary.
Alex said: “I was made to feel welcome when I arrived in the UK though it was a very traumatic time for me.
“This is why Refugee Week is so important. It’s not only about making people feel welcome, just as I was, but about celebrating the contributions they bring to the communities they integrate into. This benefits everyone.”
Migrant Help UK is one of Refugee Week’s major partners and will be at the official launch at the Southbank Centre in London with organisations such as the Red Cross and Freedom from Torture on Sunday, 19 June.
The launch will feature musicians, poets, dancers and a market place where all the major partners will host stalls giving information on their work in helping people flee persecution when they come to settle in the UK.
Other Migrant Help UK events held both during, and in the run-up to, the week include:
- A screening in Glasgow of The Beautiful Game 2012, a documentary focusing on the power of football to unite communities in Africa.
- The Refugee World Cup football tournament in Leeds, featuring teams of refugees from Iraq, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Eritrea and Afghanistan among others, who have all settled in Yorkshire.
- A series of family fun days for the charity’s clients at several of its centres across the UK, aimed at encouraging integration, support and the spirit of welcoming.
In the last year alone, Migrant Help UK has supported thousands of people in need coming to the UK from different parts of the globe.