Posts Tagged ‘world refugee day’

Today is World Refugee Day

Today, June 20, is World Refugee Day. It is a day to acknowledge, and pledge to help, the millions of women, men, and children around the world who have been displaced from their homes by violence and conflict. There are over 45 million refugees adrift from familiar home territory right now–more than the entire population of Canada–and it is a crisis we cannot ignore. Our global family hurts. There are myriad ways to involve yourself today, please find a way to lend your support, your voice, your prayers, your energy, and your intention that wars can conclude, occupations can resolve, violence can fade away, and families can go home.

Here are just a few initiatives:

United Nations World Refugee Malaria Program (send a necessary bed net to a family on the run with no protection from this deadly, and preventable, disease).

Dadaab Stories chronicles life in refugee camps, working with FilmAid‘s tireless work in refugee communities.

i-Act actions for Darfur refugees on World Refugee Day and beyond.

As Angelina Jolie, who is in Syria today as an envoy for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) helps point out, the war in Syria forced more people to flee last year than any other conflict in the world. In the last six months the number has more than doubled to 1.6 million, of whom 540,000 are in Jordan. “The worst humanitarian crisis of the 21st century is unfolding in the Middle East today,” said Ms. Jolie.

Photo: UNHCR/O.Laban-Mattel

Photo: UNHCR/O.Laban-Mattel

Scared and exhausted, fleeing for their lives with only what they can carry…this is going on in too many places…

World Refugee Day, Angelina Jolie, and Taking Action

Angelina Jolie was just displaced (by Kristen Stewart) from the number one spot on the list of the highest grossing female entertainers…but her position there has afforded her to address, in a huge way, displacement that actually means something. Jolie has long had a vocal presence in the fight for support and recognition of refugees of war, and yesterday, on World Refugee Day as recognized by the United Nations and UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency), the activist/actress donated $100,000 to help Syrian refugees.

Around the world, every minute, another eight people are displaced from their homes, families, villages, cities, nations…no one chooses to be displaced. From a press release, Jolie is quoted:

“We risk forgetting the individual when we speak in numbers, but the numbers tell an important story. In the past year 4.3 million people have become displaced. There are still 2.7 million refugees from Afghanistan. 12 million people are stateless. And for the fifth consecutive year the number of forcibly displaced people worldwide exceeded 42 million.

“Sadly, a person who becomes a refugee is likely to remain one for many years – often stuck in a camp or living precariously in the city of a developing nation. 70 per cent of refugees under UNHCR’s protection have been in this situation for more than five years. Their safety and well-being depend on the continued generosity of those countries who have kept their borders open to refugees, and on the vital efforts to deliver humanitarian assistance wherever and whenever it is necessary.

“Unfortunately, the world is producing displaced people faster than it is producing solutions to displacement. And the solutions are not exclusively humanitarian – they are also political. The international community should rededicate itself to preventing conflict, addressing it when it erupts, and solving it more quickly, for that is the only way to create durable solutions for the refugees whose strength inspires us on this World Refugee Day.”

How, and where, do you put your money where your mouth is, supporting the things that inspire or defeating the things that horrify you? Give me some ideas of movements that matter to you in the comments section below–I’m sure we all want to know more.

World Refugee Day VOICES

Today, on World Refugee Day, I’m re-posting this message from a hero of mine, Lovetta Conto and, by extension, her friend Grace.

After the jump is today’s blog from Ann Curry. I know I’m like Twitter here, re-posting the work of others, but it is a statement of respect–they say it so much better than I.

Today is World Refugee Day.

“The Akawelle necklace is made from bullets that put my friend Grace in a refugee camp.  They are the same bullets that, with your help by being an Akawelle supporter, has taken her out.  This is her story.” – Lovetta Conto

FLEEING WARMy name is Grace Freeman and I’m 21 years old. Today is World Refugee Day – and it’s the first one in my life I will not spend as a refugee.

When I was a baby, my family fled the terrible war in Liberia. We made our way to the country of Ghana, where we lived in the sprawling camp of Buduburam Refugee Settlement with 40,000 other refugees.

Life in the camp was hard. We slept on the ground when we first arrived, drinking water from mud puddles. As time passed, we got tents and then were able to build small houses, but life wasn’t much easier. Our father left. Our mother tried to find food for us. I always begged my mom to let me go to school but it wasn’t free and we couldn’t pay. Finally my mother gave me to an important “big woman” in the camp, who promised to send me to school.

INTO THE DARKNESS
At the age of 7, I left my family’s small tin house and moved in with the important lady. She had been rich back in Liberia. Her larger tin house sheltered her many children and grandchildren. I was happy to finally get a chance to learn. But my dream quickly became dark. Instead of sending me to school, she made me her servant. The words for this in my culture are “outside child”. I was beaten daily and made to work long hours caring for her family. I learned to make fires, cook for twenty people, fetch water, scrub clothes, carry large cookpots full of hot food on my head to sell on the road to make money for the woman. She forced me to call her “Mommy”. I wore the same two dresses for years. I would sleep in both of them to stay warm, on the cold mud floor of the house. Insects and rats would crawl on me and bite my skin. I was not allowed to be called Grace, only Dog. She told me I was a “born slave”.

 FREEDOM

One day, I had a chance for freedom and I took it. I gathered my courage and finally ran to someone to help me. By then, my mother had passed away and I was 18 years old. For the first time in my life, I spoke out and told the world, “No, I will not be a slave. I am not an outside child. I am Grace.”

I was found by the Strongheart Fellowship organization which is a program for exceptional young people from difficult backgrounds. Through them, I moved back to Liberia to a big house called Strongheart House that they built with money raised by selling beautiful necklaces made from transformed bullets from the Liberian civil war. These necklaces – Akawelle – were designed by another refugee, Lovetta Conto, who is also part of the Strongheart Fellowship organization. The remarkable thing about these bullets is that it is these bullets that made me a refugee – and it is also these same bullets that took me out of those horrible circumstances.

Today I live at Strongheart House, with my brothers and sisters, and other young people who are also celebrating World Refugee Day in a home of our own – where WE are FREE – where we are no longer refugees.

I tell you my story today for one reason: to ask that when you think about refugees and the lives they are forced into, please remember what put them there. Before being a slave, before losing my mother – my troubles began with war. Most refugee troubles begin with anger and guns and scared people running. If we are talking about helping refugees, let us first talk of helping to keep people from BECOMING refugees.

Somewhere today there is a little girl who has a home in a troubled land. Maybe war will come there, maybe not. Maybe she will lose her home and her mother and all she knows. But maybe – if we focus on finding peace and removing guns from the hands of people who destroy life – maybe she will live in her home, with her own mother, and she will get to live her childhood – free.

My name is Grace. I am not a refugee. But I cry for those who one day might be.

Grace Freeman is a Fellow of Strongheart Fellowship, a healing and learning program for exceptional young people from extreme circumstances. The goal of Strongheart Fellowship is to facilitate deep healing, learning, and innovative thinking in young people who have experienced tremendous loss or deprivation in their lives due to challenging life circumstances but who have shown marked levels of resilience, social or emotional intelligence, and resourcefulness. Our commitment is to create the conditions that will assist these individuals to integrate their past experiences and unfold into their most authentic selves – into living their lives on purpose, aligned with their own unique blueprint – deepened and informed by their past rather than limited by it. Our belief is that by focusing on deep, personal transformation of individuals with enormous potential, those individuals will become key influencers and advocates who will ultimately bring sustainable systemic change.www.strongheartfellowship.org

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