I, Refugee

Just as the title of a recent Huffington Post article says, often times when I hear of instances of oppression and marginalization, no matter where it is or who it affects, it just hits home.

Why? Because my personal life has been a constant battle against people and the institutions they make up, in redefining where I belong and where I can exist as a human being.

To share a bit personally, as a college junior, there has been nothing on my mind since getting my acceptance letter to the University of Hong Kong than the actual feat of getting there and learning and growing in this new environment. Matter of fact, I used to joke in my early days of college where I promised myself that if my pre-med studies were going to be a barrier for my study abroad experience, then I would drop this whole “becoming a pediatrician” thing to go abroad and live somewhere for a few months. It wasn’t necessarily this idea of “traveling abroad” (although it is a huge factor) but this idea of being able to exercise similar human rights as others (migration and the ability to cross borders) that motivated and pushed me to fight for this dream. Although there is about a month left for departure, I’m still not 100% sure if I can go to Hong Kong.

Now, connecting this back to this whole crisis that affected various parts of the world this past week: I didn’t know what to feel except that again and again, all of us somewhere, somehow are not protected, not made to feel safe and welcome, and not even a human sometimes. Even amid the Syrian refugee crisis, I couldn’t believe that people were blaming the attacks in Paris on the influx of refugees. I just don’t understand because there is no common sense in this.

People who have to forcibly leave their homes due to persecution are now being called out for these violent attacks, when all they carry with them are their hopes for a place and people that will provide them refuge from fear and violence. But, instead, we place these bans on allowing refugees to enter our communities.

Since I’m studying Child Development and Community Health, I particularly think of the children affected by this crisis and the impact of these actions on their future. But more than that, I think about things like mental health needs, services, and resources because there is a whole lot of war, displacement, and forced migration that will happen. How will children make sense of their identities living in a world where ideas of belonging, citizenship, and home are defined by such inhumane decisions?

I pray for the people who are suffering and hope that we all stand up for the basic rights of these individuals. Let’s not wait for a brighter day but, instead, be an active part of changing these harmful systems and make the world we imagine a reality. We cannot wait any further. We are the ones we have been waiting for.

The author and her class at the Tibetan Children's Village school for refugee children
The author’s class photo from the Tibetan Children’s Village (TCV) school for refugee children

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