Thursday 9 February 2023

Afghan Storytelling


Storytelling lets me share the stories of my family and friends; it helps me conjure up narratives from the depth of my memory which I had always thought was injured, broken and buried. I learn a lot from story telling and it helps me gain insight into myself and I do hope others enjoy and learn from it too. It helps me create something useful out of my experiences. I believe our sufferings, pain and disappointments should not be defining us but an experinece that make us more powerful and insightful. I use storytelling to acknowledge my sorrows and pain and give it a place it deserve where it evokes laughter  and inviting other to join in the laughter.

Story telling tradition is a vibrant way of evolving narrative and creating bonds in the community. The storytelling tradition give narrative to our culture. it gives texture and depth to our lives. its an intersection of real and surreal, natural and supernatural enabling us to explore unconventional believes. these stories change as they are told depending on the teller and place. In Afghanistan stories are told with humour but also a reverence for the past. Humour develops when life is absurd or when we can’t make a full and rounded meaning of a situation. Humour reinforces bonds between people and a way to test the boundaries. 

Sunday 1 May 2022

Our Events: Makers Workshops

We ​run kite making and DIY makers workshops in festival​s and events. ​We don't charge participants a fee but donations are welcome to cover the cost of materials, parts, fixings, tools and transportation. Any profit from the event will be donated to Nolander, to support and sponsor refugees in Brighton.​ 

Makers is a DIY workshop taking place in private venues and festivals. I focus on using as much reclaimed wood, metal, tools and other materials to help reduce waste. I work across genres and materials to create practical and fun objects. My workshops are hands on and flexible and you’ll get instruction and inspiration to find your creative flow. I teach carpentry, metal work, electrical, mixed media art, dyeing and so much more.​ Some examples of my previous workshops are below. ​I have enabled participants to confidently design and make useful, functional and beautiful items; participants were able to make these in an hour without any previous crafting experience or DIY skills.

Rejuvenation; art presentation

I have a sculpture project in progress and will be seeking a place for displaying the item. 
Rejuvenation is bringing the spirit of a dead tree into a work of art while steeped in memories of warzone. The tree is reclaimed wood salvaged from near my home and combined with childhood toy making skills. I grew up in Afghanistan in the 80s and 90s, the war had destroyed the infrastructure, irrigation and the natural surroundings. The landscape was scared by destruction and death and we only had bombs and bullets for play toys. some of the bombs were designed specifically to look like toys targetting children. Some of my friends fell victim to butterfly mine but we all learned that what looks like a toy is dangerous and instead crafted our own games. we also used ammunition boxes, brass cartridges and other weapons as building blocks at homes or furniture. While we collected shrapnels and bullets for their metal.

I am using reclaimed material in this project: a salvaged tree, the old water heater from my home and spent ammunition to create a tree sculpture that was dead but the wounds are patched up in an attempt to bring back some life. The planter is a home item turned into a bomb, reminicent of war child play to turn everything into a weapon. The copper water heater is almost half a meter in diameter and was commonly installed in homes in England without gas supply. The sections of the tree are bolted together by mechanical means and the slits are treated as wounds but instead of stitches it is riveted and stapled together by steel. The timber is treated and waxed to prevent further decay and improve aesthetics. War is still raging in many parts of the world; while it has different causes and roots, its given different identities and purpose, it morphes and surges from the original cause. The people who are stuck inside it share a common experience of death and nothingness. The project is an attempt at rebuilding where war has defined everything, including our play and thinking. It's turning the spirit of war from destruction to rebuilding; from nothing into something.
Let's pause and remember that it's going to be a year since the Taliban occupation of Afghanistan where they have banned girls from school and caused famine, hunger and death.

About Me:

My name is Sanjar Qiam and I am an Afghan British maker and entrepreneur based in Brighton. I started in the media and cultural industr​ies​ in Afghanistan and moved to making and building after immigrating to the UK. I renovate houses, run Afghan kite making workshops around the UK and have set up a charity to support refugees. I also organise makers' groups for adults to design and craft material intended for daily use. Inspired by the art and craft movement​;​ I emphasise on practicality and fun in making.


Tuesday 29 March 2022

Why Refugee Sponsorship

The world is experiencing its most serious refugee crisis since the Second World War, with more than 21m people fleeing their country of origin, and over 34,000 people displaced each day. 1.3m refugees have so far arrived in the EU. In the UK, we currently provide sanctuary to around 16,000 people per year. 

The Home Office introduced community sponsorship in the UK in July 2016 as part of the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme, which has a goal of resettling 23,000 people by 2020. Sponsorship enables community groups to support vulnerable people fleeing conflict by providing resettlement support and helping to enable their effective integration (providing access to housing, language training, employment advice, etc.). Canada has pioneered sponsorship, with over 300,000 refugees supported in this way over the past 40 years. The evidence points to the the transformational role community resettlement can play – speeding up integration, but also bringing communities together and building a more positive narrative on refugee issues.   


Why we are doing this: 

Sponsors can mobilise community level resources to achieve more effective integration – for example accelerating language learning and using their informal networks to help secure employment quicker

Sponsorship brings people together, integrating communities. Their shared experiences can build a more welcoming culture and change the narrative on refugee issues 

“Our hope is that the successful Canadian private sponsorship model will inspire others to develop programs appropriate to their context.” - Johannes Van Der Klaauw, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Representative to Canada


Community Sponsorship

Community Sponsorship gives power to local people to resettle a refugee family in their neighbourhood. Communities work together to support the family as they settle into their new community, by providing befriending, encouragement and practical help.

Nolander is a community-sponsored initiatives to provide practical, financial and emotional support for refugees. 

We offer a vulnerable refugee family the opportunity to rebuild their lives in the UK. It transforms the lives of both the family and volunteers. Here are some of the benefits:

  1. Directly increase the number of refugees who can safely resettle to the UK
  2. A tangible, practical way to respond to the global refugee crisis
  3. Make maximum use of the capacity, commitment and networks of citizens to help refugees
  4. Improve the chances of refugees to settle in, learn English and find work
  5. Strengthens community bonds
  6. Send a strong message that refugees are welcome in the UK and build more open communities over time

Watch this video for more information about community sponsorship and how it works:

Refugees Welcome


We have been working with community sponsorship groups to settle refugees in Brighton and has been supporting people who have recently moved to the UK. We are also helping refugees from Afghanistan who had escaped the Taliban and now are stuck in third countries. 

A large number of people are forcefully displaced from their home either because of violence, poverty or/and persecution; people are stuck in countries of origin and spaces of transit en route, often without adequate access to essential services.

In recent years, the issue of forced migration in Europe has often been described in terms of a ‘migration crisis’. This is a problematic narrative as it suggests that migration, or the arrival of people in Europe, is itself a problem. Moreover, by locating the issue in Europe, a wider geography and history of mobility including Europe’s violent engagements in other parts of the world, is cut off from the frame of analysis.

The problem is not movement as such – people move all the time, due to the proliferation of borders, people in search of safety often have no access to legal routes to safety. One of the reasons that so many people embark on irregular, costly and dangerous journeys is that there are very few visas for people travelling on humanitarian grounds such as fleeing conflict, persecution, poverty or other conditions that endanger their lives.

A serious rethinking of the border regime is required to ensure that people on the move do not become illegalised – that is, have to resort to irregular and often dangerous journeys. Unfortunately the countries to the east of EU have adopted a policy of border proliferation which is particularly ironic as they recently had suffered from the same calamity. Making legal pathways more accessible to people who need them most and increasing their capacity is one step in the right direction. 

Get Involved


I am looking for people to join me taking this further and expanding Fly with me events and Afghan storytelling workshops.

You will help me get the workshops into festivals and make contact with agency with interest in using this as a tool of promoting mental wellbeing and diversity. We will make more memories and inspire creativity with arts and entertainment. we will work together to bring joy, craft, laugh, hear and learn to people. As a charity, we aim to introduce people to Afghan culture and storytelling and inspire experiences to discover and take part in the arts. promote diversity and fight bigotry and racism. 

If you think this is something you would like to get involved with then I would love to discuss with you. Please come along for a coffee and chat to see if we are a good match and I can tell you more. You can email me below

Thanks for your support in advance,

Sanjar Qiam
+44 7968 44 44 46
67 Upper North Street, Brighton, BN1 3FL

Building the group

I was thinking of asking freinds and family as my starting point; I am also going to knock on neighbours’ doors to see if they are interested. I will be using social media to get the word out and recruit volunteers. once I a few people committed I will set up a WhatsApp group so we can liaise, communicate and arrange meetings. I am aiming for a core group of 8-10 members. I am hoping as we develop and move along the way, more volunteers and befrienders will join, growing the number to 35-40 members!

I have spoken with freinds and strangers about community sponsorship and most are unfamiliar with the scheme. thats why I decided to set up this little website to upload regular information. I have also notice that almost everyone I have spoken with have offered help and support. 

In many ways, building the group is the single most important part of the community sponsorship journey. You will endure many challenges (and wins) together so resilience, flexibility and trust are key and group members should demonstrate commitment and skill to take on the responsibility of welcoming and settling a family.

Monday 28 March 2022

Improving Community sponsorship scheme for refugees

Channel 4 speaks with Zehra Zaidi, who’s a lawyer and co-founder of Action for Afghanistan – an organisation that works to secure safe passage and resettlement for refugees. The solution to the problem seem to be in streamlining community sponsorship scheme and making it easy for local communities to support refugee families.