location: Ecuador • South Africa • THAILAND
“They couldn’t get over the events they had faced before they came to this country.”
For days they walked, winding over mountains and through forests, crossing by foot into another country far from the eyes of the authorities. Perhaps you can easily picture an endless ocean of people fleeing from their homeland; men, women and children blurred into a line of faces and bodies, spanning far into the distance. Perhaps particular locations come to mind when you think of refugees: Syria, or Myanmar or the Mediterranean crisis. A refugee, by definition, is a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution or natural disaster. An asylum seeker is one who claims to be a refugee, but whose claim has not yet been definitively evaluated.
What has been most unsettling for us is to realise is that a refugee’s story of hardship, injustice, disappointment and loss doesn’t finish when they cross the border out of their country. Their plight classically continues throughout their journey and into rebuilding life within their arrived destination. Adonis Musati was a young Zimbabwean man who died of starvation on the streets of Cape Town whilst queuing to get his asylum papers.
Refugees deliberately flee from threat, abuse, conflict or suffering. From this place of grief, stress and trauma a person is required to enter into a country’s refugee application process, perhaps without the ability to speak the national language. We met a refugee-aid worker who rhetorically voiced to us a very valid question: how can we expect such people to integrate healthily into society without any acknowledgement of their mental and emotional instability? Thankfully, there are pockets of charities and NGOs we’ve met that decidedly respond to such needs and work towards the health of the refugee. We’ve met refugees who have flourished under such counselling and assistance and who go on to offer peer mentorship to other asylum seekers. Gloria (pictured above) is a refugee in South Africa who says that her passion in life is to aid others and help them come to a healthy place mentally so they will be able to live lives that are rich and then are able to extend that richness to those around them.
As Status:Welcomed, our whole movement of hospitality is built upon the belief that the extension of care, generosity and investment towards refugees isn’t exclusive to organisations and NGOs, it’s doable for us all.