For World Refugee Day, 20 June, we asked Rawia, a 16-year-old from Africa who has lived in Romania for 8 years, to share with us her story. Rawia volunteers for Terre des hommes Foundation projects dedicated to children, and has just finished grade 11 among the top of her class. We talked to her about what it means to be a migrant /refugee* in Romania.
Tdh: You just finished school and were second in your class. You are now in 12th grade, congratulations! Please tell us about you.
Rawia: I have been in Romania for 8–9 years, I am in high school and have been volunteering for Tdh since 2018. I was a beneficiary of the Move Together project, after which I realized I wanted to help more. As a volunteer I have been involved in the MINT project (Mentoring for Integration of Children Affected by Migration) and in the Take Over Day campaign, and now in BRIDGE. I have moderated the Forum of Children. All of these projects are beautiful because they are dedicated to children.
Tdh: How hard was it for you and your family to adapt?
Rawia: I think the hardest part was the language. We didn`t speak Romanian when we arrived, we didn`t know our rights or what to do if we needed help, for example, at the notary. But after a while we learned the language, and our parents as well, by talking with other people. The language classes are very important, they set a frame. We managed to integrate. The community is very nice and welcoming. We didn`t have other difficulties. We have a lot of Romanian friends and they helped us more than those from our own countries. In many situations we needed them and I recommend to someone who just arrived here to make as many Romanian friends as possible.
Tdh: What would help them adapt easier?
Rawia: The classes, making friends, integrating — they should not be afraid. They should get involved in different projects so that they meet people, but also take trips and see beautiful places here and know things about the country they live in. And it is very important that they know their rights.
Tdh: What does it mean to be a refugee?
Rawia: Generally, a person who had to leave his/her country for economical or political reasons, or because of war. Or, a person who wants to build a better life for themselves and their children. In some communities/countries the education is not as good as it is here, and women and children do not have the same rights.
Tdh: Is this important to you?
Rawia: Yes, very important. In Romania, refugee children have the same rights as Romanians.
Tdh: What would you like to tell refugees in Romania on the International Day of Refugees?
Rawia: First, Happy Birthday! The most important thing is that you learn the language, that you integrate and make friends and know your rights — don`t feel like a stranger. And know the traditions — how people think — because everything is different. I think we must know each other and respect the others so that we can be respected. We must do what we can to integrate; it is important.
*The official definition of a 'refugee' is a person who leaves his/her country because his/her life is in danger, while a migrant is a person leaving for other reasons.