Ali Al-Anbaki speaking at a conference

Refugee Ali joins Wales’ leaders of tomorrow as he graduates from Future Generations Leadership Academy  

A former asylum seeker will become one of Wales’ leaders of tomorrow after graduating from a transformative programme run by the Future Generations Commissioner.  

Ali Al-Anbaki, 27, from Cardiff, said he wants to raise awareness of the mental health struggles of people seeking sanctuary, after completing the Future Generations Leadership Academy, which supports young people to bring about lasting social change under the Well-being of Future Generations Act.  

Ali moved to Wales in 2022 after fleeing his home country of Iraq at the age of 20, where he studied laboratory analysis and was a civil activist on social media, speaking out about the dangers of political corruption on young people.  

He spent two years living in tent in a refugee camp in Samos, Greece, before being homeless for four months, and was then refused asylum in Germany, finally arriving in the UK following seven days in a detention centre in London.  

Ali moved to Wales and applied for the Future Generations Leadership Academy while volunteering and was awarded a place, where he has spent the past seven months practising and improving his leadership skills, learning everything from personal branding to resilience and exploring future trends, while learning more about Wales’ world-leading well-being legislation – which protects the interests of people today, those born in the future, and our planet.   

Participants, age 18-30, have the opportunity to become part of the academy’s alumni network – the alumni have spoken at climate conferences, joined Welsh Government advisory boards, become elected officials and represented Wales on the UK Future Generations Commission.  

They also have a key role in inputting into the work of the commissioner, Derek Walker, who in November 2023 published his seven-year strategy, Cymru Can, after consulting across the country on the best ways to tackle the big issues facing Wales. This year, individuals have come from a variety of organisations across Wales including EYST, Welsh Government, Transport for Wales, Principality and the Urdd .  

Ali was granted refugee status in November 2023, receiving the news while in an Academy session, and is now using the experience to support a better future for Wales’ asylum seekers and refugees.  

In January, he set up Cartref, a free, warm space in Grangetown for asylum seekers and refugees with a special focus on physical health and well-being. Led by individuals who have lived through similar experiences, its mission is to create a sense of belonging and community integration, helping participants find volunteer opportunities to stay active, enhance their language skills, break down barriers, and gain a deeper understanding of the local community and culture. 

They have collaborated with South Wales Police to break barriers and raise awareness about hate crime, bullying, community safety, domestic violence, and abuse and with Cardiff and Vale College to engage asylum seekers and refugees through activities and workshops. 

Ali is also developing an app for connecting asylum seekers to volunteering opportunities.   

He said: “Many asylum seekers are suffering from depression and living with the effects of trauma. I suffered with depression and now I want to help others who are going through a similar situation.  

“Asylum seekers and refugees are bright, we are skilled but we need opportunities and it’s so important that people arriving here after fleeing terrible circumstances can look after their well-being.  

“Volunteering, especially where you can get outside and exercise at the same time and connect with others, is so important for asylum seekers and refugees to help them become a part of the society where they now call home. I want to help people to access those vital volunteering opportunities that made such a difference to me.  

“Wales is an amazing country and as a nation of sanctuary it has always welcomed me.”  

He said: “There’s so much more that I want to do, and being on the Future Generations Leadership Academy has been an amazing achievement and motivated me to apply Wales’ well-being goals to everything I do. I want to be a part of creating a better future and I’m passionate about AI and preparing for its impacts.  

“My hope is to find a place I can call home and in five years, I hope to have my own company. I would encourage other asylum seekers to apply for a place on the next Future Generations Leadership Academy. The experience has changed my life and given me even more of a push to create change in Wales for other asylum seekers and refugees in Wales.”  

Thirty five future leaders graduated at an event attended by the commissioner and Jane Hutt MS yesterday (Monday, March 18) at Wales Millennium Centre. 

Organisations are being encouraged to find out more about becoming sponsors for the next Future Generations Leadership Academy.

This year, Principality Building Society provided financial support for the academy to recruit young people with protected characteristics.

Arts Council of Wales, for the first time, supported two places for people who work in the arts sector – which includes staff in arts organisations, or those working as artists, creative practitioners or freelancers.  

Derek Walker, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, said: “It’s an honour to run the Future Generations Leadership Academy, where these bright and brilliant young people are helping to create the urgent and transformational change that’s needed for Wales. I’m excited to see what this year’s graduates do next, and I’m confident that we have an amazing group of passionate leaders helping to ensure Wales is acting today for a better tomorrow.” 

Other FGLA graduates include Yusra Chaudhary, a Welsh Centre for International Affairs and Climate Cymru volunteer, and board member at Grange Pavilion Youth Forum. Yusra was awarded the Plan International Young Change Maker award for her social media campaign around menstruation, raising awareness about period poverty and creating safe spaces on social media for individuals to share their own period stories. 

Saffron Rennison, a Football Services Executive in the Football Association of Wales, engages with grassroots football clubs and wants to help promote gender equality in football.  

Shaun Bendle leads on the Equal Power Equal Voice partnership mentoring scheme for Disability Wales, to get individuals from underrepresented groups into decision-making roles within Wales and is the founder and manager of the social media education and news factchecker account ‘That’s Devolved’, which focuses on media inaccuracy around reporting on devolved matters.