What is the hardest decision you’ve made in your life?
In my case, although I have had some tricky decisions to make, I have to confess that, so far, I’ve been very fortunate and I don’t think I’ve ever had to make a really hard decision. Certainly not one that involves issues of life and death.
Asylum seekers and refugees are people who have had to make a really huge decision. A decision that more often than not has involved life and death. It’s an action that speaks louder than words. They’ve fled conflicts, war zones, oppression, and annihilation and have found the strength in their fear to refuse to accept that this is how life should be and have made the huge decision to move for a safer life. They’ve stepped out of their situation into a boat, a lorry, a train or on foot into a chaotic storm of the unknown, risking everything. Then, unlike the endings in fairy tales, when they arrived at their place of safety, they’ve invariably found that life is anything but straightforward and easy.
On arrival they face heartache, hardship and uncertainty as they live with very limited means and in simple conditions as their future is resolved. Looking forward, they are grateful for their safety but often fearful of the future. When they look back they often struggle to cope with the experiences of their journey and can’t help but think of those they have lost or have left, aren’t safe and are now out of reach. That is a big burden to carry.
So it is so important that they have some calm, support and hope in their storm. That’s where, for the last 20 years, GARAS has stepped in.
During this refugee week and at some of the events that have already been held marking GARAS’s 20th anniversary, I’ve heard some amazing stories about individuals. Accounts of the lives of asylum seekers and refugees, from the Kindertransport children in Gloucester to the present day. Stories of how they found peace and their own voice in a new land and then made amazing contributions to society. Inspiring descriptions too of people who helped them, who took sacrificial action and played their part in enabling them to be themselves and to be valued.
GARAS relies, not just on the expertise, experience, empathy and practical advice of its amazing staff, but also on the actions and inspiring commitment of volunteers. These past few days have been a powerful reminder to me that each of us has to find our ‘voice’ on this issue and then discover our way of making a difference.
Action speaks louder than words.