A group of students at a college in south Wales have won a global award for their work creating the first ever language app for refugees and asylum seekers.
The app AILEM was created by refugees who have gained full scholarships to UWC Atlantic in Llantwit Major. AILEM’s purpose is to provide knowledge and education to support the needs of refugees and asylum seekers in integrating into society. It teaches users all the key phrases a person needs when they arrive as a refugee.
The students have won a WSA Youth Innovators Award, which will enable them to continue developing the app and to add more languages to it. The app currently has more than 8,000 users and contains a full curriculum in 8 different languages.
Sagar Ali, 18, is from Pakistan and is on a full scholarship at UWC Atlantic. He is working on the app along with a number of former and current students. He commented:
“When I first came to the UK five years ago, I couldn’t say hello, how are you, nothing. When I started school, I couldn’t ask the teacher to go to the toilet. I had to go through that initial struggle by myself. There was nothing that existed.”
The ethos of the app is “Created by refugees for refugees”, with content that is relevant to the lifecycle of a refugee’s journey of integrating into society.
Yeva Doskalchuk, 17, is a Ukrainian refugee who fled her home in Ukraine to Romania before gaining a scholarship to UWC Atlantic in Llantwit Major in August last year. She added:
“It was very intense, coming here and speaking English all day long. I would like more people to know about the app because it would make their life way simpler. For kids especially, it’s so difficult when you first arrive to be in school with children who don’t speak the language it’s so difficult for them to socialize and make friends”.
Naheed Bardai, principal at UWC Atlantic College, said:
“The AILEM app goes to the heart of what UWC is about – empowering young people to go out and make the difference they want to see in the world. This app is a world-first and I’m so proud of what our students have created.”