Yesterday I listened as a teenager told me that the final straw, in his country of origin, was when he was asked to wear a suicide vest.
It was time to go and his poor, widowed mother had to lose her only son and find a way to get him out, because what else could she do?
Earlier this month I stood in Srebinica and heard first- hand the stories of some of the few survivors of the genocide that was committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1995. Atrocities were carried out on everyone, but it was the men and teenage boys who were identified as a bigger risk and over 8,000 were murdered. They were murdered because they are “dangerous” by being male. They are seen as being the future of the opposition. This is replicated in so many conflicts across the world.
So when politicians and the tabloid press complain that it is teenage boys that turn up seeking asylum and not “cute” babies and toddlers, they need to remember that vulnerability comes in a number of forms and may be precisely because you are a teenage boy! They need our protection not our derision.
If you’re looking for a Christmas present for someone or simply after some light reading, may I point you in the direction of Shappi Khorsandi’s touching childhood memoirs, A Beginner’s Guide to Acting English? It’s not a new release (first published in 2009) but remains as relevant and insightful today as before.
Born in Tehran and moving to the UK when she was in pre-school, Shappi and her family ended up in the asylum system here. A true story from the well known stand up comic, it is moving and poignant. You get to see life in the UK as an immigrant through a child’s eyes.
It’s easy to read, yet Khorsandi doesn’t shy away from brutalities experienced by Iranians living under heavy religious rule. Family love, political conflict, growing up bi-culturally. Humorous and moving, this excellent book has it all.
Hannah Deacon, GARAS Advice & Support Worker
There are several events throughout November across the county that you may be interested in. First up, on Friday 11th at Nature in Art, Twigworth, is a Puddings Evening. Come and eat pudding for a good cause! (Tickets £5, available from GARAS’ office.) The Stroud Book Festival has 2 events: Echo Chamber (11th-13th) and Hassan Akkad’s Personal Exodus (Saturday 12th), both in Stroud. Gloucestershire County Council would like to meet anyone interested in fostering young asylum seekers, on Wednesday 23rd in Newent, whilst on Saturday 26th Samara Levy will be talking about the charity that she set up to help refugees in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere, hosted by St Andrew’s Church, Churchdown.
More details of all of these events can found on the events page of our website, by clicking here.
Looking forward to the New Year, if you speak another language and would be interested in training as an interpreter in a therapy session, please follow this link to the ‘Latest’ page on our website for further information.
So today is the day that GARAS says goodbye to the Hate Crime Co-ordinator who we have hosted for the past 2 years. Two years where she has worked in Gloucester and Gloucestershire to encourage a climate of trust in authority to report hate crime and incidents, to increase reporting and to work with communities.
And today’s the day we woke up to find that the President Elect of the USA has been openly misogynistic, racist and Islamaphobic throughout his campaign, a scary day indeed.
Last week I stood in a small town in Bosnia Herzegovina and saw something of what happens when hatred has the upper hand, when the “other” is singled out and isolated, when history cannot be forgotten and ridiculous fears are played on so that politicians can get their own way.
So thank you Sado, and Mina (who worked alongside Sado for a few months) for doing your part in this county. Let’s continue to work to defend our fundamental ideals & beliefs that no one should be discriminated on the basis of their race, gender, faith or sexual orientation or any other way that identifies their “difference”.
Last night I had the privilege of watching again “You, Me and The Distance Between Us,” a production that was devised and performed by the very talented Ellen Muriel. Ellen had spent some time in the past year volunteering in a number of places linked with the asylum journey: Lesbos, Calais and the Greek/Macedonian border.
An astute observer of people, she has used her Drama training to put together a very powerful and moving portrayal of the stories she heard; the volunteers she worked with; and the refugees she met. It is not in any way a saccharin-coated portrayal. She can be piercingly self critical, she questions motivations and she challenges preconceptions. But underneath she tells the story of very real people, trying to make very real decisions and journeys and trying to be human in a world that is progressively ignoring them. She uses the medium of storytelling, singing, puppetry and silhouettes as ways to recount these various observations. So much resonated with our work at GARAS and made me reflect again on our interaction with our clients and with each other and our motivation for being involved in this area of work.
I can thoroughly recommend it. If you didn’t manage to catch it yourself, you still have a chance. Ellen will be performing in Bristol on the 28th and 29th October in Hamilton House. In the meantime, if you see it advertised in your area I recommend you take the opportunity to see it!
This month there are 2 events in support of GARAS which may be of interest to you. The first, dancing to live devotional music by the Raga Babas, is on 22nd October in Stroud. The second, “You, Me and the Distance Between Us” is a one-woman show (first shown at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this summer and currently touring Europe) which will be coming to Cheltenham on 25th and 26th October. For more information on either of these events, please visit the Events page on our website, by clicking here.
You’ve heard of the Brownlee Brothers. In Gloucestershire we have the Simpson Siblings! They are very generously fundraising for GARAS as they run the Stroud Half Marathon together on 23rd October. Please would you consider sponsoring them as they prepare and to help them keep motivated along the scenic 13.1miles? You can visit their sponsorship page here.