SUPPORT FOR YOUNG REFUGEES | ‘It helps kids who’ve lived through war to feel better’

Students from Cabramatta, Fairfield and Liverpool Boys high schools joined other secondary students at the Capoeira Angola Youth Festival at Redfern as part of Project Bantu last Friday.

Project Bantu, now in its 10th year, is a support and awareness program for youth refugees, run by STARTTS (Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors).

This report was written by some of the 33 Cabramatta High School students – mostly Syrian refugees – from years 7 to 11 who attended the event and was compiled by teacher Elisabeth Pickering.

PROJECT Bantu started in schools eight years ago. It was started by a man of African Brazilian background, Mestre Roxiho.

Being part of Project Bantu means we have a Capoeira Angola lesson at school each week. Capoeira is a type of dance-martial arts with singing and musical instruments.

Project Bantu helps kids who’ve lived through war and bad times to feel better. It helps your body and your feelings.

On Friday, November 11, we went to the eighth STARTTS Capoeira Angola Youth Festival at the Giant Dwarf Theatre in Redfern. The Youth Encounter is a special day when all the students who learn Capoeira in different schools come together to meet each other and join together to share our progress and learn new skills.

It is also a time when other Capoeira Masters come to teach us. They are amazing!

At the Youth Encounter we were given a T-shirt and a water bottle to celebrate 10 years of Project Bantu Capoeira Angola in Australia.

We were told that Capoeira teaches respect for the environment and the water bottle is a way to reduce plastic waste. The water bottle has words printed on it, including “sustainability”, “reduce, reuse, recycle”, “care for people” and “care for the earth”.

During the day we rotated through three groups – a movement class, a music class and a recycling workshop. Then we all joined together in a big circle called a roda where we do our moves in pairs while others play the instruments and sing.

To finish the day we had lunch together.

Here are some more of the pupils’ individual comments:

“It was a great day for learning more about Capoeira and making new friends.”

“Today made me feel that Capoeira is like my big family of people from around the world.”

“When we are in the roda it doesn’t matter if your partner is male or female, what age they are or what country they come from, we just enjoy ourselves.”

“When you come to Australia as a refugee you really feel lonely and different. It’s hard to make friends when you can’t speak much English. Often you feel really down because of all the bad things from the past.”

“Capoeira makes us feel like we belong. It teaches us to work together and respect each other.”

“We are so happy that through the organisation STARTTS Mestre Roxinho has been able to bring us Project Bantu.”

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