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Guest Contribution: One Step at a Time Towards Change

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Refuge can be defined as “shelter or protection from danger or trouble, a place that provides shelter or protection, and a way out during difficulty.” Does not everyone deserve refuge, a place of safety and protection, especially those who have to flee their homes in order to escape danger? Just as the theme of this year’s World Refugee Day suggests, no one says “I think today would be a good day to be persecuted, chased away from my home and threatened; I think I want to be a refugee today”.

No one chooses to be a refugee – this statement may sound plain and obvious, but there is a heaviness and difficult complexity behind these words. This statement makes me think about the many perils that people have to face in order to survive and the difficult decisions they have to make. This statement makes me think of the lack of preparation a person has before they have to flee and the people they may be forced to leave behind. This statement makes me think of the struggles of feeling like you no longer belong somewhere and that you have suddenly lost the place you once called home. For so many, there really is no choice at all, no good choice that is – the choice is between staying and risking being involved in a conflict, or fleeing and risking the perils of a long journey to an unknown place.

So what? What can we do about any of that? While we may feel that these perils are happening somewhere far away from here and have nothing to do with dailycialisuse us, many people who have faced these struggles are our neighbours living right here in Kitchener-Waterloo – members of this community.

As individuals, we can start to raise our own awareness of what is going on in the larger world. We can start to educate ourselves on issues that refugees face overseas, as well as the difficulties of living here in Canada, in a place that is supposed to be one of refuge. We can volunteer or get involved with groups that support refugees. We can listen to the stories of other individuals who have faced this difficult journey. As part of a collective group, we can advocate for better supports for refugees within our country and we can teach others around us about the issues they face. As part of a community, we can support the organizations and groups that help refugees throughout the process of coming to and settling in a new place. We can be welcoming neighbours with open arms and we can celebrate the contributions that refugees have made to this community.

This year, join the Kitchener-Waterloo community in raising awareness about the realities that many refugees face. Start learning more about their experiences by attending some of the community events and listen to the rich stories that are being shared. Every step we take as individuals and as a community in raising awareness and getting involved is one more step toward creating change.

– Christina

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