In the recent weeks the world’s newspapers have been dominated by the refugee crisis. But nothing was quite as heartbreaking as the photo which showed the lifeless body of three year-old Aylan Kurdi, a Syrian child who fled the civil war with his family, washed up on a Turkish beach. Apparently, the debated decision to publish such a shocking image was taken to remind us of the tragedy that thousands of children and families are taking in search of a better life. That picture broke our hearts as it was impossible to look at it for one second without feeling a sense of pain and immense sadness. We tried like many other people did, to find a possible explanation to this and we think we found the answer in the words of the Somali-British poet Warsan Shire:
“No one puts their children in a boat unless water is safer than land”
But what it’s even sadder, in our opinion, is finding that politicians, media and the public opinion needed to see photos like this one to wake up and take action. In fact, the last two weeks were full of voices from political leaders, mainly from European countries, speaking about quotas, sharing responsibilities, call for urgent action… Our immediate thoughts were: “Where were you when all this started?” – Were we really so busy thinking about economy, power and money that we forgot about the human tragedy and loss of life that is happening in the world?
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that a total of 411,567 people arrived in Europe in the sole year 2015 and more than 2,900 people lost their life in searching for hope. The 51% of migrants entered in Europe in 2015 came from Syria, the 14% from Afghanistan and the 8% from Eritrea. We think the problem has been misrepresented in public and political discourse for a significant period of time and it seems that we do not have the time to solve it.
The story of Aylan Kurdi – who was fleeing war and brutal prosecution in Syria – became then emblematic of the ‘worst refugees crisis in living memory’- as the media and public opinion labelled. But we know that as Aylan, there are thousands more children and families who have crossed the seas, who have walked through deserts and mountains, squashed in the mouth of a van or sailed in overcrowded unsafe boats and who put their lives in the hands of greedy human smugglers. We bet no one would ever choose to undertake this kind of journey unless the hope of finally being safe means more than the journey itself.
We are sadly all too familiar with these stories at JAN Trust, as since we were founded in 1989 we have helped over 70,000 disadvantaged women, including many refugees and asylum seekers, giving them the opportunity to better integrate and become active citizens of society.
We listened to their stories and concerns, like Muna, who arrived here in 1995 as a refugee from Somalia where she escaped a violent civil war. She suffered immense trauma which led her to depression and a sense of frustration. After two years, with the support of JAN Trust she gained new skills that have built her confidence and self-worth. Today she has a job, and is a care worker and helps other women that have had the same experiences as her.
Like Muna we met Sediqah, who arrived in the UK from Afghanistan. She didn’t understand a word of English but was so determined that she enrolled in our English class and she further progressed on an IT course and employment workshop. Today she is successfully employed within the financial services sector.
Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war we have had an increase of Syrian women coming to our center, which is their safe heaven. Their stories were different but their determination to succeed was the same.
Their successful stories fill our heart with passion, the same passion that we put every day in our work!
You too can contribute to our vital work, to find out more, please visit our web page: http://jantrust.org/about-us/support-us