Rahmat’s hospitality is immediately apparent. He serves us chips, speculoos, and a large packet of sugar for the tea he’s steeping directly in the kettle. Did he not have a teapot in his small home? Or is this maybe just the logic of an 18-year-old young adult? He pours the tea into cups he got from a friend. They’re decorated with a penguin, giraffe, butterfly, and zebra. “Pick an animal,” he laughs
Rahmat arrived in Belgium in October 2015 without his parents, and without knowing the language. “At the beginning, I didn’t know a single word, really nothing. I went to a DASPA class for a year, where the teacher was able to explain what certain words meant by acting them out,” he explained, imitating his teacher’s gestures.
“After a year, it was decided that I was ready for 10th grade. The other students in my class could just listen passively to the teacher, but I had to pay constant attention, since I had to make additional effort with the language,” Rahmat explain. “I passed my tests, but I wanted better grades, 17’s instead of 14’s. I wanted to do a good job.”
“Here in Liege, I’m taking classes in social animation techniques. I want to be an animator, to help others, and to make beautiful things together. But I’m conflicted over whether I should do hairdressing instead. There are more practical courses, you don’t need as much French, and I can start making money right away. I’m going to need money so that I can live completely independently in the near future.”
“I lived in a reception center for 2 years. After 3 interviews, my request was accepted, and I was able to move to this apartment.” Rahmat showed us a photo on his phone of a group of boys sitting at his table. “When I moved here, I made dinner for my friends. I know most of them from the reception center. One of them has now had his application approved and lives above me. The others are still waiting on their decisions. I also have friends who were rejected, and who now have to make it on their own without papers.”
Vulnerable unaccompanied foreign minors (MENA) who are recognized as refugees or as beneficiaries of subsidiary protection are supported by Caritas in their transition towards autonomy. Thanks to the “Youth in Transit” program, they can make their first steps towards an independent life. Two minors share an apartment for a period of six months and receive guidance from a Caritas social worker.
“I cook, and he does the laundry”
Rahmat’s room is a bit more decorated than the apartment’s living room and kitchen. Photos, texts, and drawings brighten the white walls. Two hats immediately draw your attention. One is red and the other white. “One’s from Christmas and the other’s for Standard Liège,” Rahmat explains.
He plays football Wednesday afternoons with other young people from Caritas. Every week, they work on their physical fitness and team spirit. Sports helps take their mind off of things. On the Liège football field, they’ve been meeting every Wednesday since June for a friendly match in good or bad weather.
“My roommate Obaid didn’t play football today, he went to do homework,” says Rahmat. “He’s from Afghanistan, too. We speak Dari at home and get along well: I cook, and he does the laundry.”
“I have lived here for the last four months, and I will need to find my own place two months from now. I don’t think it’ll be easy to find somewhere to live, but I’m ready. I have to be.”