Sunday, June 20, 2010

World Refugees Day 2010

What's it like to be a refugee? To witness your family torn apart by war and conflict? To lose everything you value- family, friends, your home - and be forced to flee in order to save your life? To travel hundred of miles, on foot through dense jungles and in leaking boats across dangerous seas?

Well today, I came to volunteer under UNHCR Malaysia to create awareness on the refugees plight in Malaysia and to dispel myths surrounding the misconception of refugees to our public.
I think in the process of educating the public, both myself and those I dragged along got to know more about the journey a refugee makes and to see what it's like to live as a refugee in Malaysia.

This is the performance by the Karreni Community and it is called the Four Tribes of Kayan. Performed by the Karreni people on Myanmar and performed when people of many villages gather, on celebratory moments like the New Year, weddings and during harvesting times -this is a song about beauty of the Kayan land with four different tribes living harmonious lives on the hills, plains and valleys. The song speaks of the Karenni people's longing for their homeland when they are far away.

Having a chat with Wong Chun Ting, the coordinator of the event prior to showtime.

Taking a stroll at the refugee bazaar. Such beautiful creations they have.

I hung out with these cool young girls who were also to perform later part of the day. They are refugees from Afghanistan. Had so much fun with them. So cute!
This young girl called Zulaikha came to sit on my lap during Ady Suwardy's performance. Such innocence. She later came on stage with me cause "You've got a friend" ( last song sung by Ady before handing the mike over to me)
During the Q&A session, many came on stage to contribute answers. Did you know that there are almost 90,000 refugees and asylum-seekers in Malaysia today registered with UNHCR? At one time, 250, 000 refugees from Vietnam had been in Malaysia. But that ended in 1990s. Today about 90% or 80,000 refugees in Malaysia are from Myanmar.

Refugees in Malaysia live in cities and towns in many states in Malaysia - Mostly living in the Klang Valley, but also in other states including Penang, Johor and the rest.

This is a typical living condition of a refugee. 20 June is World Refugee Day. It is a salute to the indomitable spirit and courage of the world's refugees. It puts a human face to the refugee issue, that behind the numbers and statistics are real people with real stories and real dreams and desires for a a life of safety. In the wake of them losing everything, they have incredible courage and perserverance to remain steadfast and positive in their will to survive. But they need our compassion and understanding and a humanitarian space to be able to rebuild their lives in safety and dignity.

Anyone can volunteer to help refugees. No special skills are necessary except willingness to get involved and patience. Over 150 people volunteer now in UNHCR teaching children, teaching skills to refuge adults, and in other areas like healthcare.

Logon to to find out how you can contribute.

Again, so good to be able to do whatever I can do share their beautiful yet sad journey of strength and positiveness. I needed this, especially in the wake of what's happening of late with unkindness and misconception slapped to my face. Noone can take you down, but yourself. Thank you UNHCR for giving me a chance to renew my spirit and strength through this program.

God bless!

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