Ahmad accepts his Scottish Refugee Journalism award.

Ahmad accepting his award, © Paul Chappells/British Red Cross

A life lived without a voice is like a bird without wings.

            – Mada, VOICES Ambassador, Glasgow

Refugees know better than anyone what issues they face. Recently, the Refugee Festival Scotland Media Awards gave refugees the chance to celebrate their own experiences in their own words.

Many were members of the VOICES Network, a British Red Cross project that helps refugees speak out for change.

Here are some of their stories.

Decent housing for refugees: Ahmad’s story

Winner of the student journalism award for his blog on the struggle to find safe housing for his family

I was a successful journalist in Syria but had to leave after suffering a great loss, and was granted refugee status.

With the help and support of the British Red Cross, I finally reunited with my wife and two young children. I cannot express how much you have helped me.

But once my family arrived, we ended up homeless.

We feel like nothing. But we work hard, study hard, volunteer and contribute to our community.

I was so lost when I wrote this blog. Today our situation is slowly improving, but to be acknowledged for my writing in the UK is a massive achievement for me.

Now, I had to start from the very beginning again and learn English, and am studying for a HND in multimedia at City of Glasgow College.

Receiving the student journalism award at the Refugee Media Awards was a big moment for me and my family. We know how it is to be affected by media reporting that is not fair, balanced or accurate.

Refugees can succeed: Marwa’s story

Refugee whose story was covered by BBC Scotland and shortlisted for an award

Marwa, a refugee whose story was covered by BBC Scotland and shortlisted at the Scottish Refugee Journalism Awards ceremony.

Marwa, © British Red Cross

The day I found out I was being resettled in Scotland was the happiest day of my life.

I consider myself to be a Scottish person. Scotland embraced me when I felt homeless, so it feels like home to me.

Today I am studying media at college to fulfil my dream of becoming an educated woman who can help others in need.

I want to show people that refugees can succeed.

However, sometimes we are misunderstood and not represented fairly or truly.

I think that societies should be more understanding of refugees and I believe that by reporting well, they will become a part of our community and the media.

And we can all feel that we belong to one world.

Telling the truth about refugees: Mada’s story

Refugee judge 

Mada and a journalist at the Scottish Refugee Media Awards stand next to each other, both holding the award the journalist has won.

Mada congratulates a journalist, © Chris Afuakwah/British Red Cross

I know what it is like to be scared to take your kids to the park in case they ask for an ice cream because you have no money.

As an Ambassador in the VOICES Network, I can express how it really is to live as an asylum seeker. What it is like to be banned from practising my profession. And to be unable to provide for my family.

It was so touching to meet journalists committed to reporting the facts. They can help us hold decision-makers to account and promote understanding.

The media is a great platform to amplify your voice, so it was a big honour for me to judge the broadcasting entries and give the winner his prize.

As a Voices Ambassador I feel valued and recognised. We are teachers, doctors, nurses, lawyers and we need to feed our kids just like you.

Migrants want to be useful: Sharlu’s story

Refugee judge 

Sharlu, a refugee living in Scotland, stands at a lectern giving a speech.

Sharlu, © British Red Cross

As a VOICES Ambassador, I have had the opportunity to deliver speeches, organise events and participate in campaigns to raise public awareness about the asylum system.

I have also spoken to politicians and academics, and represented the group in giving feedback on the New Scots Refugee Integration Strategy. It has been a very impactful journey.

To me, good reporting on refugee and asylum issues should be focused more on how these forced migrants can also be useful and beneficial to the country.

Many refugees have to rebuild their lives through their work, skills, experience and talents and are not here to depend merely on the state benefits.

They can be great asset to the country rather than a burden.

I think the media should also focus on these things rather than always putting refugees on the receiving end. Refugees are totally capable of contributing or giving back in many ways.

Good reporting should not be altered or made to fit the majority or the ‘norms’. It should represent every person and their stories. Because every refugee matters.