My Bright Kite CIC is a grassroots organisation aimed at empowering and supporting the wellbeing and inclusion of young asylum seekers and refugees living in the UK. We create opportunities for education, life skills, advocacy, integration, resilience, youth voice and influence, fun and friendships, through our range of bespoke youth work programmes. We raise awareness and share good practice through our training and consultancy. We build on young people’s incredible strengths, nurture aspirations and dreams and ensure young refugees feel heard and supported in order to settle, integrate and thrive.
My Bright Kite CIC was founded in 2017 by Nola Ellen and Gulwali Passarlay after a series of personal experiences that awakened their passion to come together to advocate for the wellbeing and inclusion of young refugees living in the UK.
A year earlier Nola had returned from the “Jungle” – a refugee camp in Calais, France – where she had been running a project called ‘Hearts and Hopes’, connecting school children from the UK with children in the camp through letters, drawings and crafts. She returned feeling disheartened and helpless, deeply shaken by the extent of human tragedy she had witnessed in the camp.
This was when Nola had stumbled upon Gulwali’s book ‘The Lightless Sky: An Afghan Refugee Boy’s Journey of Escape to A New Life in Britain’. Gulwali had based events in the novel on his own experiences as a child refugee in that very same camp on the very unsafe journey that thousands have been making in search for asylum in the UK.
Profoundly moved by his words, Nola reached out and contacted Gulwali. At this point, both Nola and Gulwali had been travelling across the UK delivering refugee awareness talks in schools and other settings and campaigning for the rights of refugee children to be recognized. They both focused on leveraging genuine human connections to foster a culture of welcome, and used storytelling to build compassion and empathy for the experiences of child refugees.
After months of email exchanges about their work, they finally met during Gulwali’s book launch in Leeds. United by their values and dedication to social justice and their overwhelming desire to see a world where young refugees felt safe, included and empowered, My Bright Kite CIC was born.
The kite is a powerful symbol for both founders. Growing up in Afghanistan, flying kites was a central part of Gulwali’s childhood. They symbolized joy, freedom and hope for a better tomorrow.
Sava treasured the prayer, and put the prayer safely into her pocket. The following day, Sava taught Nola how to fly a kite. For a moment, as the sun beamed down on them, the war felt far away as though it were a distant memory. For just a moment, hearts had not been broken, families had not been separated and lives had not been lost. For just a moment, the children ran across the golden sand dunes, laughing, playing, and being exactly what they were supposed to be - children.
As Nola left the camp, she prayed that Sava would survive the wretched conditions and make it to join wider family and community networks in the UK. The months passed and Nola finally received news that Sava and her family had arrived in the UK after 18 arduous months on the road transitioning between various refugee camps and temporary shelters.
After a long and difficult journey, Sava and her family received a house through the national asylum support service, only a few miles from the school children that had written the prayers! The school children in Leeds who formed the Hearts and Hopes group were so excited to hear the news of Sava’s safe arrival, and planned an afternoon of activities in her honour.
Sava is one of thousands of children forcibly displaced from their homes who had made long and difficult journeys to safety, without sufficient support and encouragement to recover from their trauma, to flourish and to achieve.
My Bright Kite CIC was started in honour of children and young people just like Sava and Gulwali who found themselves displaced due to war and conflict, and subjected to conditions of human rights abuses, poverty and instability. Those who have arrived in the UK often face a multitude of challenges recovering, healing and feeling at home. Nevertheless, they display incredible resilience despite the trauma that haunts them. With the right support, nurturing and empowerment, we hope that we can help children and young people feel safe, happy, free, and able to fly high to reach their dreams.
My Bright Kite CIC is a beacon of light for young refugees.
"Dear friend, I pray you keep safe. I pray you are happy. I pray you make it to England. You can come to my school.
I will welcome you. I will be your friend. Amen."
Nola learnt how to fly a kite in Europe’s largest refugee camp, the ‘Jungle’ Calais. Her teacher had been a 6-year-old girl named Sava. Sava and her family had been forcibly uprooted from their home in Kurdish Iraq and had been on the road in search of safety for 18 months. They found themselves living in the most squalid of conditions in an asbestos filled wasteland in Northern France - the very same route Gulwali had taken and the very same camp in which he had lived at the age of 13.
Sava was such a good-natured, polite and intelligent child, traumatized by images of war that no child should ever have to witness. Nola had met her while distributing prayers written by school children in Leeds for children living in the camp. Sava had closed her small fingers around her prayer, holding it as though it were a jewel, and asked for the message to be translated into Kurdish. It read;