Triangles: Empowering young people through visual storytelling

Published on
19 July 2023

We speak with Rachel Telfer, our National Triangles Coordinator, who explains the development of The Hopeful Journey of Patience, a visual story aimed at helping young people seeking safety in the UK to feel less alone. The story was co-designed by young people taking part in Barnardo’s Triangles programme who came to the UK as unaccompanied children in search of sanctuary.

Our Triangles programme, which is part of Barnardo’s Core Priority Programme on Care Journeys, gives care-experienced young people the opportunity to have their voices heard, build a support network, and create positive change for themselves and other young people with care experience.  

In late 2022, we began our third Triangles programme which focused on supporting young people with experience of seeking asylum within the UK as unaccompanied children as well as young people with experience of disability - two important experiences that we feel are often overlooked within the care system. 

What is a ‘Triangle’ and how does Triangles support children and young people? 

In our programme, we refer to a ‘Triangle’ as two young people with lived experience of the care system and a frontline worker they have a positive relationship with. Young people from across the UK are recruited to join Triangles where they are supported to have their voices heard and empowered to create real change in their communities. 

“My role is to support each Triangle to meet other Triangles and support them to co-design a Triangles Mission; an idea that could have the potential to create change within the system and better the life of children and young people with care experience. 

“Young people in these Triangles are supported to work together weekly to develop their mission through fun activities and co-production sessions where they experiment with ideas and develop skills like public speaking, problem solving, and campaigning. We then invest in their idea and watch it come to life! The Hopeful Journey of Patience is one great example of a recent Triangles Mission,” Rachel said. 

Where did the idea for The Hopeful Journey of Patience come from and what does it aim to achieve? 

“Early on in the Triangles 3.0 programme, the young people we were working with told us that they would like to create a book to help other asylum seekers feel less alone. Having come to the UK on their own as children in search of safety, the young people described their experiences as impersonal and traumatic.  

“By creating this book, they were able to express to other young people who might be going through a similar experience that they were valued, cared about, and welcome to be here,” Rachel said.

While they were working on the project together, the group shared their personal journeys of seeking safety in the UK, including the challenges and obstacles they faced along the way. It was clear that change is needed to better support other young people facing similar circumstances.  

“Two of the big issues raised were the need to address the lack of belief in children’s experiences and the often inhumane representation of asylum seekers in the media. By using this visual story as a medium, the young people were able to share their personal experiences, raise awareness of the problems they faced, and advocate for other children and young people,” she said. 

In one of the online sessions, the young people were keen to share an introduction they had written together: 

"I know when you came to the UK, you had a difficult time. I know this because I did too. So don’t worry, everything is going to be ok. We made this book to help you.

You have been through a difficult time, but you are safe now. This is my story; I think your story is similar to mine. I came here to feel safe, my journey was hard and scary, but I wanted to be happy. I could not understand or speak English. I found it difficult, I felt scared, shy and lonely. You can forget the past because you are safe, and you can look to the future and start your life here. I hope you have a better life.

This is a book for you, to remind you that you are not alone and to help you over the next few days."

How did the comic book get made? 

To design the comic book, the group worked with a group of talented artists from Penificent, a social enterprise that creates comic books that tackle difficult topics and social issues. The design workshops were not only a creative outlet for these young people but also an opportunity to learn new skills and techniques for storytelling. 

A frame from the comic book featuring a young girl who is tearfully saying goodbye to her parents as she needs to flee her war-torn country

“With the help of an artist and interpreter, the young people’s story follows Saboor (whose name in Arabic means patience), a young asylum seeker with a dream to become a doctor, along with his best friend Saida and his social worker Angeli,” Rachel said. 

The story starts with Saboor in the future as a doctor and follows his journey from having to leave an unsafe country due to war and his journey to a safe place. Upon the children’s arrival, they’re asked lots of questions by Immigration and the story reflects one young person’s real-life experience of being considered an adult because they had one grey hair.  

Why is this project so important? 

One of the young people shared why the book was so important: “People come here and feel completely lost and don’t know what to do or what to expect. They may have left their country to flee war.  

It is important because people come here, especially children and they don’t recognise or know anything in the UK. It is all new to them, but very scary. They won’t know who people are, who will help, what will happen, all they know is that they are frightened and nervous about what is going to happen next. 

This book should help them to understand and feel the support and guidance from us through our words.” 

Barnardo’s will be distributing as many of these comic books as possible through our services and support workers. If you work with children seeking safety in the UK, we encourage you to purchase a comic book via the ordering information below. 

Please note: An accessible transcript of the comic book will be uploaded soon.

More information about the comic book 

Who is the comic book for?  

This book is for children and young people aged 12-21 with experience of seeking safety in the UK.  

How should it be used?  

We would like a supportive professional to read through the book with the child or young person.  

Want to order copies for children and young people you are working with?  

For any organisations or services working with children and young people with experience of seeking asylum in the UK who would like to order the comic book in bulk, we have a unique discount code for bulk orders with Penificent.  

Please use the code BARNARDOS and email [email protected] to let them know you would like to order the comic book in bulk.  

Please note: This code will only work for bulk orders of “The Hopeful Journey of Patience” comic purchased through Penificent’s website. 

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