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The Lightless Sky giving activists better understanding of Refugees and displaced people.

I have received many letters, emails and messages of support from people around the world, after they read The Lightless Sky. I wanted to share this one from a friend and fellow humanitarian Madi, who is supporting and helping refugees in the Greek islands camps.

Gulwali, brother, I have been meaning to message you for ages to thank you sincerely for putting forth such a beautiful book.

I have basically turned into the Bible salesman equivalent for this book and I urge everyone to read it because I think it is so beautifully written, but also because it is such a powerful catalyst for giving people a new perspective and understanding of this situation.

From a personal standpoint, I have worked in humanitarian hotspots for four years but primarily with Syrians. I knew some Afghan families here and there, but it wasn’t until I met Ruhi and the brothers that I truly came to experience and love the culture. I was quickly absorbed into the Afghan community in Chios because one, I look very Hazara, and two, I LOVE bolani. The brothers promptly nicknamed me “Bola” and they made sure I was never short on delicious Afghan food. They taught me their songs and dances and I am so thankful to have learned so much from them.
People are so quick to tell me about the beautiful parts of the life they left behind. I heard stories of the beautiful nature in Afghanistan, the colorful kites, the busy market places, the kebab and stews and rice dishes and desserts… I fell in love with a place I have never seen. And I fell in love with the Afghan community for its diversity but also its uniform pride for the country and its people.
At the time, I did not understand the journey they made. Especially for my beloved brothers- the single men who were forced from home (not as young as you- I still have a hard time comprehending that) and were abused and neglected and to this day still face unspeakable hurdles in their journey to safety.
Without a doubt, your book made me a better sister to them and for that I am thankful.
Being the bridge between the community I grew up in (very wealthy, very white, very rigid in their mindset) and the community of people who have become my chosen family in camps all over the world is one of the greatest honors of my life. I have learned so much about resilience and compassion, grace and determination, and about life and how to live it by becoming close with displaced people and hearing their inspiring stories. Prior to reading The Lightless Sky it was distressing to be the middle man between such different realities because I could never find a way to accurately bring those stories home to help give context to my friends and family about the world my eyes had been opened to. I strongly believe that my job is to be a conscientious witness. I try not to tell stories that do not belong to me. To have such a vivid and powerful narrative straight from the source available on Amazon and delivered right to their door is a blessing!
Since reading the book, there have been noticeable changes in the way my community in the US understands the work I do and who I work with. This is one of the greatest gifts I have ever been given. Sharing your story has changed more lives than I am sure you ever imagined ❤️

I am a huge admirer of your dedication to using your story and experience to magnify the overall narrative of refugees and emphasize a change. The reason I started my organization was to try to promote a paradigm shift in the way we view these crises, talk about them, and the way we intervene. It is really challenging to stay on track with this because so many people and organizations are set in their ways of seeing beneficiaries as helpless people who need our pity when really, we just need to create a world of peace and understanding where no one is forced to flee in the first place. It would certainly be much cheaper than building refugee camps!

Thank you for your support of the brothers campaign and of Ruhi. She is such a bold and fearless sister working with her has been some of the funnest times of my life and we’d love to have you along on The Brothers Campaign in any way you’d see fit!

Best wishes and sincere thanks,

I am sharing this with her permission and if you guys would like to support her work and org, here is the link: https://www.in-sightcollaborative.org/

Zoom call with University students to share my experiences.

I hope you’re all keeping safe and well guys, during this strange and difficult time with the global health pandemic. I have recently received this wonderful email about my talk/contribution to the learning of students on refugee studies. #TheLightlessSky #MyBrightKite 🪁 I wanted to share with you all.

Dear Gulwali
I hope you and your family are well.
Thank you so much for the thought provoking helpful and valuable session you gave over zoom to our Refugee Care students recently – it was very well received – please see below.
Very much hope we will have the chance to meet again in the future.
All good wishes,

Zoom is an amazing tool. OnTuesday 17th March, 24 persons (including two cats) met by zoom for a PPS Open Seminar hosted by Refugee Care lecturers Zibiah Loakthar and Renos Papadopoulos. Warmly welcoming our guest speaker, Gulwali Passarlay, we came together from around the world – Colchester, London, Surrey and Cambridge, Portugal, France, Spain and Denmark to meet with Gulwali who shared his reflections about his personal experience of setting off from Afghanistan, aged twelve, on a journey to seek safety from persecution. Gulwali has written about his experiences in a book “The Lightless Sky: An Afghan Refugee Boy’s Journey of Escape to a New Life in Britain”, now translated into six languages. A couple of years ago Gulwali, together with Nola Ellen, set up the not for profit organisation “My Bright Kite”, leveraging genuine human connections to foster a culture of welcome and advocating for the wellbeing and inclusion of young refugees living in the UK, using storytelling to build compassion and empathy for the experiences of young refugees.

Nominated as a guest speaker by Refugee Care student Rhiannon Corlett, Gulwali is an engaging speaker,and connected with us all, stretching across the boundaries of zoom and inspiring us to think deeply about his simple message that people seeking refuge wish to be treated with kindness and compassion as people, as children, ad individuals and not othered as “asylum seekers”, as “refugees”.

Guwali generously shared his experiences and wisdom and responded to the many questions that followed his talk, “What messages do you want to share with children?”, “What helped you on your journey?, “How did your journey challenge your concept of masculinity?”, “How did your faith help you?”, “How did you feel when your story was published?” “What advice would you give to people, to university students, who wish to make a difference?”

Students reported finding the meeting a “privilege” to be part of, “incredibly inspiring”, “valuable” and “so helpful for connecting and understanding themes from our Refugee Care course”. One student observed “how important it is never to lose sight of the actual people we may be talking about in academia”, another on how Gulwali is a “tutor of resilience” with much learning to share with us in these current times.

We were delighted to invite to our gathering Beth Webb-Strong, an Essex student chairing the recently reestablished University of Essex’ Student Action for Refugees Group. Beth spoke about STAR’s there main activities of campaigning, volunteering and fundraising and the drive to encourage our university to open up more opportunities for students from refugee backgrounds to access our courses. STAR is a university society open to students from any disciplne and is actively seeking more volunteers to support its activities going forward and to join its committee.

To read more about Gulwali and his work please visit https://www.mybrightkite.org/ and to find out how you can get involved with University Essex STAR activities please visit https://www.essexstudent.com/society/8655/

We may be living through a period of time where we are needing to keep ourselves physically apart from each other, but this does not mean we have to be disconnected – there are virtual ways of staying connected, reaching out and building new connections. As Gulwali shared, his own book (translated into languages including German and Chinese) has found the power and potential to cross boundaries. Through our own writing and with a range of virtual tools we can each find ways to take up or continue human rights activism and make small but important differences in our world.

A decade of being a Refugee

2019 was a year of learning, new opportunities and challenges. Now let’s focus on the 2020 vision and mission.

Experienced travelling across the UK to do talks and contribute to discussions and debates on asylum and refugees. I have continued with public speaking, Refugee advocacy, activism and campaigning and done around 80 talks during the year. 60 or so media interviews, shared my experiences & thoughts and advocated for compassionate politics and policies.

MPA Graduation 👨‍🎓 from CTPSR at Coventry university

Wrote to SoC, refugee welcome network/groups to collaborate and work together.

We put together the new materials for the updated version of TLS, which was publicised in spring.

Competed a Life in the UK test and applied for citizenship

Connect with Refugee .org on advocacy/campaigning work as part of MBK

Started working on another book 📚

Travelled to 🇫🇷 🇩🇪 🇷🇴 🇬🇷 🇧🇪 🇦🇹 🇦🇿

🇩🇰 🇳🇴 🇸🇪 🇮🇪 🇬🇧 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿

My Bright Kite is two year old: we do school talks and workshops on refugee awareness and much more: https://www.mybrightkite.org

I have also joined as speaker member of the Speakers Collective: https://www.speakerscollective.org/

Settle College students inspired by visit by Afghan political refugee Gulwali Passarlay: https://www.cravenherald.co.uk/news/16362482.settle-college-students-inspired-by-visit-by-afghan-political-refugee-gulwali-passarlay/

Gulwali Passarlay migrated from Afghanistan to the UK aged 12. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p07n3c13

Hostile environment policy ‘putting refugees at risk: https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/hostile-environment-policy-putting-refugees-at-risk-38628782.html

Gulwali Passarlay: My Journey as an Afghan Refugee: https://www.ellesmere.com/news/gulwali-passarlay-my-journey-as-an-afghan-refugee/

Full Disclosure With James O’Brien: Refugee Gulwali Passarlay On His Journey To The UK: https://www.lbc.co.uk/radio/podcasts/full-disclosure-james-obrien/full-disclosure-with-james-obrien-refugee-gulwali/

Empathy and literature event in Athens, WeNeedBooks: https://youtu.be/PSzxiTJFgHA

Good Morning Britain: https://youtu.be/yTW96sil-uI

Channel 5: https://youtu.be/GtGIw_Y7WQ0

BorderlessWorld https://youtu.be/bWJHZiarFXQ

SonaTalks: https://youtu.be/WpZpWC4dmC8

Our Blood project: https://youtu.be/o9ZBcS5swXc

Change Maker magazine: https://uk.iofc.org/sites/uk.iofc.org/files/media/document/wi/winter_2019_2020_changemakers_issue_10.pdf

https://www.pressreader.com/uk/sunday-express-1070/20191027/281771335979757

World Wide Tribe Podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/the-worldwide-tribe-stories-from-the-refugee-crisis/id1468264562?i=1000457388882

Be The Change: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/5-refugee-crisis-child-refugee-gulwali-passarlay/id1315288369?i=1000441909297

https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/the-angelic-troublemakers-with-gulwali-passarlay/id1489717876?i=1000459465250

https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/full-disclosure-with-james-obrien/id1454408831?i=1000455850346

Here some of the talks I have done and contributed to events:

Cambridge university, PCGE conference

Bristol TACT fostering agency visit

Baines school talks Blackpool

Welcome Tent ⛺️ KARN event Kent

Janagla fundraising event London

Excelsior academy talks, Newcastle

Academy 360 visit in Sunderland

Kings Edward VI school talks in Stratford upon Avon

HTCE school talks in Great cheverell

Art of Hope, mental health event London

NEU Leeds education conference

Sheffield Hallam uni talk

Community service event London

Salford uni social workers students talk

NHS safeguarding conference Exeter

Visit to Harrogate for school talks and evening event CoS

IWM exhibition talk

Doctors of The World clinic launch event

Ellesmere college/school visit and talks

Refugym fundraising event Kent

QARN Quaker Conference in Birmingham

Migration Yorkshire Integration Festival leeds

SonaTalk London

OSH residential in Elstree

APP event London

Manchester CoS Big event

MBK training event for professionals in Leeds

The King 👑 school, Peterborough

Queen’s marry school 🏫 thirst

Brighouse sixth form college visit

IofC migration panel

Refugee book launch Nottingham

York refugee event

Bootham school talk to students

Huddersfield library 📚 refugee event

Oxford uni, in conversation event

RAS voice group meeting Manchester

Safe passage event London

Barroward primary school

NHS mental health event, London

HELOA event at Salford uni

PHE conference, Liverpool refugee health

Loreto college, award evening presentation

St James church panel discussion

Baku intercultural dialogue conference

Kent uni, Brussels migration panel event

Watford refugee group AGM talk

Refugee welcome film, discussion London

Unclan, Lancashire Council event

MUN France conference, Lille Keynote

Ripon CoS event

Meeting TCS youth group in Coventry

Goldsmith uni SU talk

Craven college talk/workshop

Conference on empowering young people at Royal Wootton Bassett Academy

Meeting with Afghans refugees and charities

Do Your Part Community centre

Home Project visit in Athens

Visit to Athens, talks at We Need Books event

Talk to health professionals/medical students at the UoM

Parntone girls school in Poole

HOME Project talk at MMU

Radnor school talk

Nidderdale school visit

University of Exeter, talk to students

Laura Devine Law event, fundraising for Refugee Action

Afghan sport personalities gathering

Strasbourg EY seminar on young refugees

My Bight Kite

‘Lessons of Hope’ is a brand new classroom resource launched in World Refugee Week 2018 by My Bright Kite CIC. It aims to promote a deeper understanding about the experiences of young refugees and the small acts of kindness students can take to promote an ethos of welcome.

‘Lessons of Hope’ is based on a 30 minute youth-led interview between international new arrival students and Gulwali Passarlay, former child Refugee from Afghanistan, refugee campaigner, esteemed author and co-founder of Refugee Youth organisation, My Bright Kite.

The resource comes with;

·         A filmed interview with Gulwali Passarlay – Author of The Lightless Sky

·         Lesson plan and teachers guidance

·         Accompanying educational resources for your lessons

·         Student pledge cards

·         A signed copy of Gulwali Passarlay’ book, The Lightless Sky: An Afghan Refugee Boy’s Journey of Escape to A New Life in Britain

With clear links to PSHE secondary education our resource enables learners to effectively engage in;

ü  Global learning relating to seeking refuge

ü  Critical thinking relating to inequality, diversity and inclusion

Learners are inspired to make connections between their own lives and the experiences of others seeking asylum and refuge, and to consider the difference a warm and supportive welcome makes to those displaced from home.

“I would describe today’s class as inspiring, interesting, emotive, heartbreaking and amazing!” – Student

“I learnt some of the things that refugees actually go through. After today I will try appreciate what I have and help my fellow students more.” – Student

 

“The questions to run alongside the film were very well targeted and allowed students to hear these scenarios being talked about by someone who had lived through it. This helps make the ‘stories’ heard in the media etc much more real and humanised.” Teacher

 

“The pledges at the end were a nice way to finish and help students reflect on how they can help welcome and support refugees in small ways themselves” Teacher

 

“A brilliant resource, well targeted, effectively raising awareness with both students and staff” Teacher

To view the trailer, find out more or to order, visit: https://www.mybrightkite.org/shop

Newly arrived to the UK as an Asylum Seeker.

This is a piece I wrote for the Durham Book Festival and New Writing North, about my experiences of early days in the Britain as UASC. #TheLightlessSky

The arrival

Imagine being trapped inside a refrigerator with the light on. But knowing that the door behind you is locked and sealed.  There is no way out unless someone comes to open it from the other side. Pleading for help, banging fists, shouting, screaming would all be useless because there is no way a small human voice could be heard within a unit sealed as tightly as a coffin and potentially as cold as ice.

That was me aged 13, a child refugee.

I was huddled among boxes of bananas, hidden in the back of a refrigerated Lorry, desperately trying to reach England. I had been on a perilous journey to safety for one year, during which time I had been hungry, scared for my life, beaten by police and border guards, imprisoned and had spent just over a month living in filthy conditions in the so-called Calais jungle.  As I climbed into that Lorry I knew the risks I was taking but by this point I was too depressed to care.  I just knew I couldn’t spend another night in Calais in the cold, wet filthy conditions of the camp, where rats and cockroaches ran over our heads as we tried to sleep on beds of cardboard.

Getting into that Lorry was a deliberate act of Russian roulette. I would either make it to England. Or I would die. Either way I would be out of the cess pit of human misery and desperation that was the jungle.

The year before I had fled my home of Afghanistan because my life was at risk. My Mother paid people traffickers to take myself and my brother to safety. We had no idea where safety was, only that we were leaving our home. As I hugged my mother goodbye she whispered to me to never come back, however bad it got. On the second day of the journey the traffickers separated me from my brother and that’s when my real-life version of snakes and ladders began, both to find a safe place to call home and to find my brother.  I travelled through nine countries, never really knowing if the next day might be my last or if I would find the refuge I sought.

So, when the driver opened the door of the lorry and I realised I was in England, I could have jumped for joy. Little did I understand that the hardest part of the journey about to begin.

Lost in the system

I was taken into police custody and placed in a cell for the next 24 hours.  Custody was not new to me.  I had already been imprisoned Iran, Turkey, Bulgaria, Greece, France – simply for being a refugee. People often ask why asylum seekers don’t claim asylum in the first safe country they reach, but how? I told every official I met in every country I travelled in that I was 12 years old yet I was still arrested, deported and treated like a criminal –  often I was beaten too.

The only country that did treat me as a child and welcomed me was Italy, where I was taken to a children’s home.  I was grateful for the kindness they showed me, but by I’d been on the road for almost 11 months and my mental state was in a bad way. There was no translator in my language of Pashtu and I couldn’t understand what they were trying to say to me, which left me confused and frustrated.  I had also recently discovered via a smuggler that my lost brother was alive and on his way to Britain.  All I could think about was trying to find him.  If it hadn’t been for that I would have been so grateful to stay in Italy and in the home, but I didn’t have the language to explain any of this.   So, after two weeks there I jumped from my third-floor room, made my way to Rome and from there to France and Calais and now England. In my childlike naivety, I hoped it would be only a matter of hours before I was reunited with my brother.

Next day the police handed me over to immigration. I saw the sign outside the Dover Immigration Removals Centre and panicked. Would they send me back? I was given a ticket with a number on it and told to sit in a waiting room. It was full of hopeless scared faces from all over the world. There was a free coffee machine. I was so hungry and thirsty that I drank cup after cup until I almost made myself sick.

I was photographed, and asked to confirm my personal details – name, nationality and date of birth. At that time, my face was very badly scarred from an earlier failed attempt to climb into a truck full of chemicals in Calais. They asked me questions about that. Then I was sent back to wait.   Several hours my number was called and I went into another room where a man asked me if I wanted to claim asylum. I said yes. I answered his long list of questions as best I could but I had been awake and hadn’t eaten for over 24 hours. I hadn’t really slept properly since the Italian children’s home six weeks earlier. I asked the man if he could help find my brother. He laughed and asked me if I knew there were 60 million in this country.

I was handed over to social services and taken to a nearby hotel. That evening I walked the cliffs of Dover, it was raining and cold but finally I could taste freedom. I could see Calais on the horizon and felt so sad for the poor souls still stuck there.

After 10 days, I was taken to Folkestone in Kent for a social services age assessment. There were five officials sitting around the table. I didn’t realise that these people would define my future. I was questioned for hours – about my family, my journey, my education and asked to name streets in my home city of Jalalabad.  At the end, I was given a piece of paper. It had my name on it but they’d spelt it wrong, even though they had the ID card the Home Office ID had given me in front of them.

They told me the panel did not believe I was 13 and that I was in fact 16 and a half.  It was the strangest thing, having the essence of my identity challenged. They were calling me a liar. Nothing I told them mattered, they’d made up their mind beforehand.  I was so upset I ripped the piece of paper up and threw it at them, then I started to cry. I had imagined the UK to be a place of justice and humanity. A place where I would be treated fairly, but this wasn’t that. There is nothing worse in life than not being believed.

It was a few weeks before I understand the impact on my asylum claim of that age assessment. By saying I was 16 I was denied the chance to go to school, a foster family or care home. I was granted a temporary leave to remain of one year. I spent three months in Kent in a social services unit for under 18s. There I was given classes in British culture and taught how to shop, buy food and manage budgets. This was such a helpful thing to help me understand how things here worked, and I was grateful for that but it was hard to relax and focus because I still had no real idea what was going to happen to me or if I could stay.

After that I was given independent accommodation with an adult asylum seeker.  It was a difficult time.  I was bored and lonely.  The age dispute rumbled on and on. I was determined to prove I was telling the truth but no one seemed to want to listen.

The only bit of good news in my life was that I was reunited with my brother. He had been living in Manchester and I went to join him. It was there that my second life chance at life began.

Finding the way

I had been told about a place called Starting Point, an education unit for international new arrivals to the UK, many of whom were asylum seekers. I went and knocked on the door to ask if I could be admitted. The headteacher Mrs Kellet listened intently to my story. Then she smiled and said: “Gulwali I believe you.”

Those three words changed everything for me.

I was given a smart uniform I loved. It made me feel like a proper student and gave me even more impetus to learn. I would arrive there in the morning tired and hungry and the staff made me toast, tea or hot chocolate. It was safe, caring and compassionate. I studied English along with basic science, maths, art and sport. The idea behind Starting Point was to give someone a grounding for a few weeks before they entered mainstream education. But because of the age dispute I wasn’t allowed to do that.  I stayed there for a year. These wonderful teachers fought on my behalf, conducting their own age assessment which we used to overturn the original one.

Finally, the age assessment was overturned and on 6th June 2009 I started Secondary school, attending Essa Academy in nearby Bolton. I struggled at first, my language skills were still basic and I was intimidated by the size of the school but I was determined to cope. I was put into a German class when I could barely speak English. Making friends was hard because I was still traumatised and I felt different to the other pupils.  I hated PE – changing my clothes in front of students was awful and against my cultural norms. I tried to explain to the PE teacher who let me change in his office. Worst of all, because of my poor language skills, I was put in last academic set for everything. Many of the pupils in my sets lacked motivation or wanted to cause trouble, but I was dedicated and wanted to learn.

Slowly but surely, I made friends and got involved with school life, joining the school council and becoming a prefect and ambassador. I was moved up a set and allowed to take GCSEs. No one expected me to get one but I got ten.

I didn’t want other refugee children to experience what I had experienced, so I asked the teachers if we could develop a better system for other refugee kids to help make them feel more comfortable at the start. The school supported me and I became an ambassador helping new international arrivals. The headteacher organised a community cohesion conference where other schools came along to hear our model so they could implement it themselves. It was amazing. Just these few small steps could really ensure that other refugee children started school empowered, motivated and inspired.

In December 2010, I was placed into foster care, three years after I had arrived. It gave me stability warmth love and family – the things I needed the most. It was my best experience in the UK and without it I know I could not have achieved so much in my education. My foster family not only opened their home they opened they hearts to me.

A lot of my assumptions and stereotypes were challenged. For example, my foster Mum Karen worked and Dad Sean stayed home to look after the kids. I found this odd at first, wrong even. It was so far removed from my own culture. But I got used to it. Sean was so helpful to me, showing me how to cook different foods from all around the world and I learned to love our cooking sessions together. They bought me Halal food, and both took time to ask me about my school day and help with my homework. Trusting strangers, especially ones from a different faith and culture, was hard. But they made me feel home so I did. Building a relationship like that takes time and there has to be willingness on both parts to make it work. But we became a family and I loved them both.

When I turned 18, social services told me I had to leave. I would have loved to stay with them until I had finished my second year of sixth form.  I was back on my own again, but this time I had my foster parent’s continued friendship and support as well as that of Mrs Brodie, a teacher I had become close to at Starting Point.

At Bolton Sixth Form college I became a student governor and sat on the school Equality and Diversity Committee, which ensured equal opportunity access to all students. I also got involved with outside activities too, sitting on the Children in Care Council, The Children’s Society Youth Council, the British Youth Council, the NHS Youth Forum, the National Scrutiny Group (which scrutinised government youth polices) and others. This youth voice work played an important part in my integration, giving back to the community but also, crucially, it made me feel like I was part of the fabric of British society.

Succeeding

I think I felt I had finally made it in this country when I got a place to study politics at Manchester University. Never in my wildest dreams when I crouched hidden in those boxes of bananas did I imagine my story in the UK would end with that.  During Freshers week, I was so overwhelmed I almost had panic attacks but I knew how lucky I was to be at such a leading institution.

Now that I have graduated and am a published author I finally feel settled here in the UK. One day I hope to return to Afghanistan because it will always be my home, and home is home. Most refugees are desperate to return to their home countries once it is safe enough.

But until that day the UK is my second home and a country I love. Despite everything I went through with the authorities in terms of proving my age and my story I know for sure that the British values of tolerance, justice and fairness do exist. They exist in the people who live on this Island. In my darkest hours and most uncertain days it was individuals – teachers, foster carers, youth workers, social workers – who kept me going and urged me on.  The system did not value me but these people did.  They gave me a sense of belonging and a mission that was what was missing in the system. But I know I was lucky because many refugees do not find that. And for them integration is so very much harder.

My ultimate moment of Britishness came when I was selected to carry the Olympic torch through Britain. I’ve never loved my adopted home more than at that moment. But I’d never have done it if my former teacher Mrs Brodie had not encouraged me to apply. It is because of people like her that I want to do all can in my own life to help and support other vulnerable young people.

My calling for now is to contribute to British society as best as I can by working hard to be a spokesperson for other refugees, by talking about the issues surrounding immigration, integration and multi-culturalism. I hope by telling my story I can help people from both sides of the debate understand and come together.

There is so much negativity about refugees. But I want to prove that if given the right support, help with integration and encouragement to share their skills and talents refugees can become valued members of their host society. We may have a different past but that does not mean we cannot have a shared future.

A productive year of activism, advocacy & campaigning.

It has been a greatly insightful year of travelling, talks and contributions to panel discussions on the refugee crisis. Looking into finding ways of supporting and helping refugees and asylum seekers in the U.K.

I have had the opportunity to speak at over 100 events across Britain, Europe and the States during 2017.

One of the many highest of year, I was given the privilege and honour to deliver the Manchester Foundation Day lecture.

Refugee turned author and graduate speaks at University Foundation Day:

http://www.manchester.ac.uk/discover/news/refugee-author-speaks-university-foundation-day/

https://youtu.be/nQWJqboxidU

The Lightless Sky was selected as one of the book for Read Regional by New Writing North. Therefore, I was able to do a tour of the north of England, speaking at libraries, schools and festivals. It was certainly a wonderful opportunity to get visit towns across the region and meet some amazing people, doing brilliant work of welcoming refugees, showing compassion and solidarity in their local community.

http://newwritingnorth.com/projects/read-regional/gulwali-passarlay-lightless-sky/

If we Direct them to the Right Source, Refugees have Brilliant Ideas:

http://refutales.eu/refugees-have-brilliant-ideas/

Global Awareness Lecture 2017: Bedales School

http://www.bedales.org.uk/news/refugee-turned-author-speaks-bedales

https://vimeo.com/243119398

A shared Britain – refugee policy for 2017:

http://blog.policy.manchester.ac.uk/posts/2017/01/refugeepolicy2017/

What Would You Do If Your Home Became A Warzone?

http://m.huffingtonpost.co.uk/gulwali-passarlay/world-refugee-week_b_17270090.html

Afghan author urges people to welcome refugees:

http://www.itv.com/news/border/2017-07-11/watch-afghan-author-urges-people-to-welcome-refugees/

Give refugees a chance and they will make impressive contributions…

http://covrefugee.org/2017/07/20/give-refugees-chance-will-make-impressive-contributions/

A note to Gulwali Passarlay, author of the Lightless Sky.

https://www.nolaellentraining.co.uk/single-post/2017/07/13/A-note-to-Gulwali-author-of-the-Lightless-Sky

International Youth Day. #YouthVoice #Health

https://spark.adobe.com/page/n1zRy1DSfCfUc/

Presenting Awards to scouts in Lancashire, celebrating their achievements and success.

https://westlancsscouts.smugmug.com/Awards/Explorer-YL-Awards-18072017/

With thanks to Big Issue North for featuring me on their weekly cover.

http://shop.bigissuenorth.com/product/issue-1206-october-23-29-1

Speaking to educators in Sweden for the second time in Malmo, on how best to support ingratiation of UASC/refugees into education.

http://settsyd.se/speakers/gulwali-passarlay/

Gulwali Passarlay gave us a fascinating insight into the lives of so many refugees who go to enormous lengths to escape from whatever horrendous life awaits them if they stay put. Galley Club:

http://www.galleyclub.co.uk/gulwali-passarlay-my-journey-to-safety-as-a-child-refugee/

Understanding and Meeting the Needs of Refugee Children

Co-facilitated by Nola Ellen and Gulwali Passarlay:

https://www.nolaellentraining.co.uk/upcoming-training-events

REFUGEES – THE LIGHTLESS SKY

Earlier this year we had the chance to speak with Gulwali Passarlay who came to the UK seeking asylum when he was just 13 years old. We spoke to him about his experiences as a young person seeking asylum in the UK, his achievements and his hopes for other young asylum seekers and refugees. We will let him introduce himself in his own words…

https://www.headliners.org/the-lightless-sky

AMBITIOUS THINKING FOR REFUGEES:

https://www.headliners.org/ambitious-thinking-for-refugees

YOU SHOULDN’T FEAR ME:

https://www.headliners.org/you-shouldnt-fear-me

And the journey continues, looking forward to more active public engagements of events and talks to create awareness, inform public opinion and encourage a welcoming environment for refugees coming to Brexit Britain.

Articles, interviews for The Lightless Sky 

I had the pleasure of participating in the Read Regional Campaign run by New Writing North, who selected the Lightless Sky as part of the project. It was amazing travelling across the north and speaking at libraries and schools. 


Read Regional

From March to June each year, the annual Read Regional campaign celebrates selected new books from the North of England. At libraries and literary festivals across the North, authors take part in events where you can hear about their writing and talk to them about their work.

http://newwritingnorth.com/projects/read-regional/gulwali-passarlay-lightless-sky/ 

FROM CHILD REFUGEE TO UNDERGRADUATE OF THE YEAR

http://www.straitstimes.com/world/europe/from-child-refugee-to-undergraduate-of-the-year#main-content

Afghan refugee brings his story to Hexham

http://www.hexham-courant.co.uk/news/hexham/Afghan-refugee-brings-his-story-to-Hexham-bcf170a7-3751-4d57-8940-ad74259fc469-ds

Bolton graduate shortlisted for prestigious education award

http://www.theboltonnews.co.uk/news/15052354.Bolton_graduate_shortlisted_for_prestigious_education_award/?ref=wa

Man who fled war torn Afghanistan takes to the stage to raise awareness of refugees

http://www.theboltonnews.co.uk/news/15074430.Man_who_fled_war_torn_Afghanistan_takes_to_the_stage_to_raise_awareness_of_refugees/#


If we Direct them to the Right Source, Refugees have Brilliant Ideas

http://refutales.eu/refugees-have-brilliant-ideas/

Author’s epic escape to freedom life story inspires Excelsior pupils

http://excelsiornewcastle.org.uk/authors-epic-escape-to-freedom-life-story-inspires-excelsior-pupils/

Passarlay’s book chronicles his journey as a young refugee

http://gmufourthestate.com/2017/04/03/seeking-refuge/

Book review: ‘The Lightless Sky’ tells modern-day refugee story

http://www.aberdeennews.com/entertainment/book-review-the-lightless-sky-tells-modern-day-refugee-story/article_2521beb0-f253-5449-b74d-05e9c164ecdd.html

GULWALI PASSARLAY; Global Youth Ambassador, Theirworld

https://www.thersa.org/events/speakers/gulwali-passarlay

https://www.thersa.org/events/2017/04/Supporting-Refugee-Children-in-Education

Author Gulwali Passarlay speaks about his journey as a refugee from Afghanistan to Britain, aged 12

http://www.unhcr.org/en-ie/news/stories/2016/5/58d10a2c4/author-gulwali-passarlay-speaks-about-his-journey-as-a-refugee-from-afghanistan.html

Gulwali Passarlay: The Lightless Sky #refugees #afghanistan

http://headingleylitfest.blogspot.co.uk/2017/03/gulwali-passarlay-lightless-sky.html?m=1

Panel member for Olive Branch Fostering, An amazingly humble and rewarding experience. 

http://www.olivebranchfostering.co.uk/meet-the-team/

A share Britain, Refugee Policy for 2017.  

To start the year, Dr Jonathan Darling, Senior Lecturer in Human Geography specialising in the politics and ethics of forced migration, and Gulwali Passarlay, Afghan refugee, politics graduate and author of ‘The Lightless Sky’, reflect on how government might support asylum seekers and refugees in 2017. Together, they discuss the challenges of the last year and propose five ways that policy can respond over the coming year.

http://blog.policy.manchester.ac.uk/posts/2017/01/refugeepolicy2017/

What Would You Do If Your Home Became A Warzone?

http://m.huffpost.com/uk/entry/17270090?utm_hp_ref=uk

Plaque unveiled in the School to recognise the role of refugees across the country

Student Gulwali Passarlay is part of a high-profile campaign organised by The Joint Council For The Welfare Of Immigrants #IAmARefugee.

http://www.socialsciences.manchester.ac.uk/about/news/school-unveils-plaque/

I am A refugee: 

Gulwali Passarlay was forced to flee his home in Afghanistan when he was just 12 years old. His debut book, The Lightless Sky, charts his perilous journey over land and sea to Britain, where he finally found safety. A tale of fortitude and friendship told through a child’s eyes, Gulwali’s story casts much needed light on the difficult decisions refugees are forced to take about who to trust and how to stay alive against a backdrop of political indifference.

Here, Gulwali writes exclusively for the Refugee Council about his experience of arriving in Britain as a child: bewildered, frightened and alone.
https://www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/latest/blogs/4450_the_lightless_sky

WATCH: Afghan author urges people to welcome refugees

http://www.itv.com/news/border/2017-07-11/watch-afghan-author-urges-people-to-welcome-refugees/

Give refugees a chance and they will make impressive contributions…

http://covrefugee.org/2017/07/20/give-refugees-chance-will-make-impressive-contributions/

A note to Gulwali Passarlay, author of the Lightless Sky.

https://www.nolaellentraining.co.uk/single-post/2017/07/13/A-note-to-Gulwali-author-of-the-Lightless-Sky

Thank you to everyone for their support, encouragements and for reading The Lightless Sky. 

I look forward to more public speaking opportunities across the UK, which I certainly enjoy visiting place, meeting people, creating awareness about refugees and finding compassion ways to help and support but also encouraging solidarity and action. 

Public speaking engagements 


Events/talks/conference since the publication of the lightless sky, in just over a year or so. But have done even more interviews with mainstream media, TV, newspapers, radio, online etc. 
I have attended, participated and contributed to many literary festivals, libraries, schools and other panel discussion during my travelling across the U.K. Starting most recent 🙂 

Saffron Walden visit and talk at the Friend Meeting House 

Presenting Awards and giving presentation to Scouts in Lancashire 

Essa academy achievements evening 

Parliamentors alumnus networking 

SelfCareEverywhere Young people event Bradford NHS 

Patient leadership NHS conference London 

Asylum, Refugee conference Preston CoS 

Carlisle library talk 

The Radcyffle school, Oldham 

Malta visit, ESN, SSC 

Prime Mary school talk in Leicester 

Quakers event on awareness of refugee issues through art, London, during RW 

Salford university talk on asylum, refugees 

Bedford library visit/talk 

Darlington library talk as part of ReadRegional 

NHS, nursing conference in Exeter, talk the mental health challenges for Asylum seekers, the role school nurses plays 

Talk at Youth hub in Bristol to UASC 

Birmingham talk alongside Mrs Brown 

Gateshead library visit 

Stockton library talk 

Bridlington library/school 

SouthShields 

JCORE fundraising event, on panel with Lord Dubs 

NUS conference Leeds, hosting and presenting awards to International Students 

Oxford fundraising event for Help Refugees 

CRMC AGM attendance, contribution 

Kent – KARN event in Canterbury 

Hereford, Quakers, Friend Meeting House 

Bern, Switzerland conference on Rights of children on the move 

Huddersfield library/school 

Panel discussion, participation at RSA on education in conflict zones 

Fostering panel interviewing potential Forster carers. 

School talk at Cheltenham 

Bradford library 

Chatham House 

Refugee Connection visit 

Coventry event 

Malta visit, meeting the President 

Standerland city library 

Newcastle city library talk 

Doncaster library 

Afghan emabssy event DC 

Talk at college in Rochester NY 

Glasgow festival talk 

Headingly library 

Leeds university 

Hexham library, festival 

NOMAD Trustee meeting

Oldham conference on racism 

Leeds NHS event 

Bury CoE School 

Warwick uni talk 

LSE STAR event 

APn awards 

British Education Award 

Missing Children Europe conference, Malta

Swedish educators talk, London 

Dunhurst school, Petersfield 

Their World, AWAS event 

Exeter school 

Walsall academy visit 

Talk at St Ethelbrge 

Greenwood event with Lord Dubs 

Havering college panel 

European Commission, Right of Child Forum speech, brussels 

NNECC event at UoWE on children in care 

Ship lake college talk, play 

UNA Chichester 

Oxfam schools event 

Nottingham uni 

Birmingham anti racism event 

Social work with Refugees talk, BSWA

Interfaith summit 3FF

STAR conference 

Royal society of art 

ASAUK event 

Nursing conference NHS Birmingham 

Humanitarian Congress Berlin 

Salisbury world event 

Calais visit 

Goldsmith college 

Newcastle Read Regional – NWN 

Wimbledon in conversation event 

TSCF visit 

Youthforia, YMPs, NW – Wigan 

Leicester festival 

Edinburgh book festival 

ParliaMentors talk in parliament 

IWM summer school 

Geneva UN visit 

York, UKYP Annual Siting

Chorley school, award evening 

Liverpool event 

Brodstaries CL talk 

The Mayfair event, charity fundraising 

South bank festival 

Raynes park event 

Leicester school visit 

Wasted library/school 

Oxford fundraising 

Chatham House 

3FF london 

Care for Calais Birmingham 

Hay Festival 

TEDx QMUL 

UCL event Preston 

CSPC talk 

Sherborne visit 

Holy cross school 

Guardian Live event 

HOME talk Manchester 

Sharples school 

Lancaster uni event 

Burway books, Shropshire 

Chichester talk 

Oxford festival 

Chatham House refugee panel 

Paris visit, school talks 

Munich uni, conference 

Sweden HeadTeachers congress 

Canterbury uni talk 

Oxfam schools event 

Shrewsbury event 

NHS Leeds 

Cambridge bookshop event. 

Lancaster art festival

Gladstone event 

Arabella church showcases 

Uffculme school, Devon

Wimbledon library 

Bolton library 

LSE politics society 

CitizenUK event 

New York visit, talks, interviews 

San Francisco presentation 

Fundraising for refugees Norfolk 

OHCHR, UN Geneva, Human Rights 

AHP event Leeds 

Shrewsbury college 

Lewes visit

Taunton literary festival 

FrontLine Club panel discussion 

Brussels conference 

Essa academy talk 

Edinburgh talk 

Belfast visit, talk 

SOAS launch event 

Queens Marry uni talk 

Nobel connection 

Salford uni SU 

Parliamentors panel discussion 

ilkley festival 

Manchester festival 

Warwick authors event 

The Lightless Sky publication in other languages. 


I am very pleased to say in 2016 #TheLightlessSky have been published in 6 languages and 7 different countries with 10 edition. You will be able to find them on Amazon and book shops around the U.K. Europ and the world. #Franch, German, Italian, Rominan, Chinese, American English and hopefully more to come…

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/1782398473/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=&sr=


Germany: ‘Sky without Light’ 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/B01B5XDCVE/ref=mp_s_a_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1483106637&sr=8-1-fkmr0&pi=AC_SX236_SY340_QL65&keywords=i+am+gulwali

Italy: ‘I Follow The Stars’ 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/B01CFD1V6G/ref=mp_s_a_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1483106821&sr=1-4&pi=AC_SX236_SY340_QL65&keywords=Gulwali+Passarlay&dpPl=1&dpID=41cJM7LUOIL&ref=plSrch

Frence: ‘IamGulwali’

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/B01A8NHCIG/ref=mp_s_a_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1483106821&sr=1-5&pi=AC_SX236_SY340_QL65&keywords=Gulwali+Passarlay&dpPl=1&dpID=513YXQ3K7VL&ref=plSrch

And US, https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/0062443895/ref=mp_s_a_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1483107196&sr=8-2&pi=AC_SX236_SY340_QL65&keywords=Gulwali+Passarlay&dpPl=1&dpID=51yYwAUgdTL&ref=plSrch

Graduation from the UoM! 

I am truly honoured and privilege to have completed my BA in politics and social science. Here are some articles about my completion and contributions at Manchester. 

Graduation success for inspirational Afghan refugee: http://www.manchester.ac.uk/discover/news/graduation-success-for-inspirational-afghan-refugee/

Inspiring Afghan refugee who fled across eight countries at the age of 12 graduates from University – MEN: http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/inspiring-afghan-refugee-who-fled-12336290#ICID=FB-MEN-main

Gulwali Passarlay celebrates graduation success after coming to Bolton as a refugee: http://www.theboltonnews.co.uk/news/bolton/14987786.Graduation_success_for_inspirational_Afghan_refugee/?ref=wa#comments-anchor

Two awards for the School in University awards ceremony. The Distinguished Achievement Awards Ceremony has been held to recognise achievements across the University.

Undergraduate of the year – Gulwali Passarlay
Gulwali Passarlay has just completed his Bachelor of Arts in Social Sciences degree. http://www.socialsciences.manchester.ac.uk/about/news/distinguished-achievement-awards/