During the recent EU referendum debates I was disturbed by the way images of refugees were used to fuel fear and xenophobia rather than, say, empathy and a desire to help.
I think of individuals I’ve met who survived the atrocities of war . . . the Vietnamese refugees to whom I taught English (many, many years ago when I was still at school) and who’d fled their homes, villages in flames behind them, finally settling in a small Suffolk town; or the ‘ordinary’ women I met in Sarajevo, Bosnia (when I was a volunteering with a charity), who’d had limbs blown off by landmines in their own garden, or been disfigured by shrapnel wounds. (If this sounds melodramatic, remember I’m talking about actual people and actual events).
It seems there is so much wrong with the world at the moment, it’s hard to comprehend. And, consequently, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and powerless. So I admire people who act on the impulse to make a difference. In this age of global, faceless corporations with their seemingly relentless drive for profits and ‘efficiencies’, it seems to me that a lot of our humanity and collective intention for change resides with such grassroots activists.
And so I admire, for example, the small group of people who run the Refugee Youth Service at key locations in France (previously Calais and now Dunkirk) providing a space where unaccompanied young people are able to connect with others of the same age, in a safe environment, and access at least some practical and emotional support.
You can find out more about what they’re doing here: Help Refugees.
And if you’d like to make a donation to support their work you can do it here: Donate.