It is easy to distant ourselves from the word ‘refugee’ especially when we are fortunate to live in a peaceful country and be blessed with a proper home, job and income. But the reality is that there are many refugees living here in our country today and they are real people with real needs. So how is our response to them? Is it ignorance or indifference?
June 20th, marks World Refugee Day. Each year on this day, the world honours the courage, resilience and strength of refugees. This year of 2009 which marked the seventh anniversary of the United Nations designated day, thousands of organizations in hundreds of countries come together to focus on the global attention not only on the plight of refugees and the causes of their exile, but also on their determination and will to survive and on the contributions they make to their host communities.
Refugees are individuals with real needs, just like you and me, For the 42 million uprooted people around the world, a shortage or lack of the essentials of life – clean water, food, sanitation, shelter, health care and protection from violence and abuse – means that every day can be a struggle just to survive.
Presently, with the world economic crisis threatening to slash aid budgets and amid enormous global uncertainty, we need to ensure refugees are not forgotten. That’s why the theme for this year’s World Refugee Day on June 20th was – “Real People, Real Needs”. Of the millions of people forcibly displaced by conflict, persecution and natural disasters, every one has a story to tell. They are real people, just like you and me, and they have real needs.
On this World Refugee Day, we want people to remember the millions of forcibly displaced and stateless people under our care who are struggling with their day-to-day lives. One thing connects them all: basic needs that must be met so they have a chance to rebuild their lives.
With this in mind, we at SHELTER organized a hand print campaign, called ‘Refugees – the Human Side’, where we got our students and teachers from our refugee schools to participate and to express their needs and rights. In this event they coloured their palms with a special paint and stamped on an empty cloth. The more hand prints the more interesting it looked. Once the material was filled-up with so many handprints it looked so beautiful. It was made all the more beautiful with the participation of the children from three to seventeen years of age. After the stamping process, they also wrote short notes on the same material expressing how they felt with their current lifestyle and situation in Malaysia. This event has helped us show our refugee children and teachers how important they are to us.
Quote from actress Angelina Jolie for the World Refugee Day this year 2009:
“Numbers can illuminate, but they can also obscure. So I’m here today to say that refugees are not numbers. They’re not even just refugees; they are mothers and daughters, and fathers and sons. They are farmers, teachers, doctors, engineers. They are individuals, all. But most of all they are survivors, each one with a remarkable story that tells of resilience in the face of great loss”.