I have no better words to express the hopelessness of the global refugee crisis and Australia’s immigration policy than those which have already been said. But you might.
Try to complete this challenge step by step from start to finish, without reading ahead. It can take around half an hour. Give it longer if you can.
As for most of my monthly challenges, this one is designed to build empathy–because being able to see through the eyes of others leads not only to better stories, but to better humans.
I would love to see our policymakers showing more empathy in their decision-making and actions. Maybe if they undertook this exercise, it would go some way towards that end.
Monthly Writing Challenge #7–September 2015: write a letter.
1. Think about how someone might become a refugee, and what they might go through in the process of escaping their country. Put yourself in their shoes. (5 minutes)
Be careful here–I want you to think not of migrants, but refugees. A migrant is someone who chooses to relocate to a country for a better life; a refugee is escaping imminent persecution or harm.
Think about how you would feel about leaving behind your home, family and job, hurriedly gathering together what’s important. Think about the decisions you’d have to make when leaving–like where to go, how to get there, whom to trust, what to leave behind.
Imagine being in that situation with young children. What would you tell your kids? Would the children understand? Can you really keep them safe?
Imagine what it would be like, landing in another country where you don’t speak the language, having lost friends and family in the process, where immigration officials are potentially hostile.
What would you eat? How would you keep warm? What would your support system look like? How would you communicate?
What do you need? How would you feel?
If you’re having real trouble getting started, watch this video:
2. Pick up a pen and write a letter. (10 minutes)
Now think of a specific person. Someone just like you, having to run for their life.
Write down all the things you could say to them that might make them feel hopeful and connected to humanity.
3. Review. (15 minutes)
Ask yourself: Are your words sensitive and caring? Do they reflect what you really want to say–and what you think the recipient needs to hear?
4. Act. (5+ minutes)
In the process of thinking and writing, I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve developed some real emotion. What are you going to do with it?
Even in Perth, a place often touted as the most remote city in the world, you have many options for using your words for the powers of good, including:
- Send your letter to an asylum seeker in detention via GetUp! and Julian Burnside QC.
- If you have children, talk to them about children in immigration detention and find out if they’d like to be a pen pal–through the Befriend a Child in Detention Program.
- Share stories and make friends over dinner, with Amnesty’s Welcome Dinner Program.
You might be one person, but your words might be just the right ones to give courage and light to someone in need.
- SMH–‘You’ve been misled on boat people: Here are the facts’
- The Age–‘Refugee crisis: How you can help refugees trying to reach safety in Europe and here in Australia’
- Neil Gaiman–‘How to help your family and save lives.’
- The Atlantic–‘The Black Route of Death From Syria’