Shang is a 21-year-old Kurdish refugee. She was forced to flee Kurdistan with her husband after receiving multiple death threats. She eventually arrived in Strasbourg in September 2018 after many months of hardship. A friend told her about Service Civique, so Shang got in touch with VISA-AD to express her wish to integrate into French society and this programme allows young people to get involved regardless of circumstance. She agreed to talk to us about it.
When did you arrive in France and when did you reunite with your husband, Hemn?
It wasn’t easy, I went through some long, hard months and I got separated from Hemn but I did finally arrive in beautiful France on the 16th August 2017. In Paris, to be precise. But things got more complicated. I had no way to contact Hemn and I was sent to a prison called la Zap because I had no travel documents. The Red Cross was helped me a lot during that period. I then learned that Hemn had been granted asylum and that he was living with a pastor in Strasbourg. I had my ruling the same day and I took the last Paris-Strasbourg train on the 13th September at 11.55 p.m. The French pastor and his wife met me at the station at 5.35 in the morning. I will never forget what they did for me.
What did you take away from your year and what did you learn during your Service Civique?
That year gave me new hope. I had had a baby with Hemn and VISA-AD and my hosting organisation were very understanding with me. I began to learn French but it was hard because, outside of my Service Civique, I always spoke English. Now it’s gotten better, I speak French but writing is still difficult for me.
Which organisation was your Service Civique with and what were your tasks?
My mission was at the Jean Strum sixth form college in Strasbourg. I supported the students with their various activities and I even created my own workshop. I also helped out with all sort of chores, like putting up Christmas decorations for example.
You attended training sessions with VISA-AD with other volunteers. What did you think of them?
Those few days with the other volunteers were very enjoyable. Meeting and interacting with people from different countries was really interesting. It was a bit difficult during the first session because I had just arrived and there was a language barrier. But in spite of that, it was still great and really enriching. The activities we did were also new to me, I took on new challenges in the “confidence” and “public speaking” workshops. So I learnt a lot.
What is your favourite motto?
“Unity is strength”