How we started

RefugeeYouth was founded as a charity in 2002. It grew out of the Barbara Melunsky Fund, which was set up in 1995, when Barbara died, by her friends and colleagues to continue her work with refugees.

Barbara was a feisty activist who worked hard to support and promote refugee communities, especially in her role as Principal Grants Officer for the London Borough Grants Unit. She had also worked with children in Indochinese refugee camps in Thailand before settling in London in the 1980s.

Refugee community leaders suggested using the fund to support the development of youth work in refugee communities, as this was an area they were struggling with. So young people became one of the fund’s main priorities, and it partnered with the Evelyn Oldfield Unit and the Westminster Diocese Refugee Services to develop youth work training.

RefugeeYouth was created to support refugee youth work in London communities and develop initiatives to help bring young refugees together

When trainees still struggled to get work placements, the partners commissioned research on how to get youth initiatives off the ground in refugee communities.

The research, Out of Exile: developing youth work with young refugees, was published in 2000. It was supported by a series of development days, to bring together refugee community organisations, mainstream youth services and youth policy-makers.

These groups made suggestions for supporting refugee youth work – such as initiatives to bring young refugees together, and training to develop workers’ experience and expertise.

So the young refugees asked them to: ‘go away and make something happen, then invite us back.’ The outcome was The Barbara Melunsky Refugee Youth Agency – in short, RefugeeYouth.