Monday, April 1, 2013

I know I belong when I....

"I know I belong when I feel calm and safe. And in the past, I have had many fears."

Soe Son di Shwe ta Lee wrote the above piece in last week's WOW session. Soe Son di tells us at WOW how life was in refugee camps on the border of Burma and Thailand. There is so much to learn from hearing her story first-hand. We will post more on past stories another week. Soe Son di feels she has connection now to Horsham, as now she feels safe in her house. Feeling safe means she can feel calm. This makes perfect sense, doesn't it? Soe Son di still fears dogs in her new life in Horsham, but having just one fear to deal with is quite manageable!

I belong to me
My dreams will be my future
Which will guide my life

Madhu Annathurai is studying Haiku ( Japanese poetry). Madhu explained to the rest of the group how haiku can work: 5 syllables in the first line, 7 in the second, 5 in the third. She came up with the beautiful piece of haiku above....I love it! Madhu's family is originally from Tamil Nadu, a state right down in the south of India, next door to Sri Lanka. She is very skilled at explaining the similarities and differences between Tamil customs and the Wimmera way. It's very exciting to have so much to share about different cultures in our group, very valuable information!

I feel I belong
In Horsham I can feel calm
I like feeling calm

P'Leah Po kyaut has also given us a haiku poem on the theme of belonging, and like Soe Son di, she knows she belongs when she feels calm. This is such an important message for those of us in Australia who have no idea what it means to have lived for years in a refugee camp. When we think of camping, we usually think of feeling safe in our tents or by the campfire with our family or friends at the foot of Mt. Arapiles, or in the Grampians or the Little Desert. These are lovely camping holidays. It's very, very, very different to be camping in overcrowded refugee camps with hundreds of other families and strangers, day in day out... for years..... not knowing if you will ever be allowed to live in a house again, or not knowing what it is like to feel warm, to sleep on a mattress, to have a full stomach....not knowing what it is to feel safe. This is what camping has meant to P'Leah in her past life. I am so glad that P'Leah and her family and friends can feel safe now in Horsham. P'Leah's poem has really helped us to explore the idea of belonging to a new community in a new country. Feeling safe is something we take for granted, those of us who live in solid houses.

"Stand up for yourself, make a difference in your future, and remember every time what it is that you want."

Yvonne Ndayikeze has come to live in Horsham from Tanzania, a country on the east coast of Africa. I love this message from Yvonne, it's so strong and positive! Yvonne has shared some stories with us in WOW which really highlight how difficult it can be to be caught between two very different cultures. It must be soooooo confusing! Which customs and ways of living do you continue in your new town, and which ones do you drop because they are "too different" to the new community? Your new friends at school "expect" you to think and act one way, your family in your new home "expect" you to continue thinking and acting the same way that you did in your original home country. Yvonne has shown in her writing that belonging must first happen to yourself. She has written "Life can be hard, but you have to keep trying". I cant wait until the next session, I want more of Yvonne's stories and thoughts to be shared.

"I don't really know where I belong, but I know one day I will know".

Tina Kalenzo is originally from Tanzania, and like Yvonne, Tina also has found it very difficult to move to a new town in a new country on a completely different continent, and try to keep a sense of "belonging" alive and strong. I asked Tina if she had time to adjust to Horsham when she arrived before going to the new school? No, not at all. Both Tina and Yvonne arrived in Horsham, then the next day found themselves at Horsham College. I know from travelling to many countries myself, that I always needed a few days to get used to the new climate and culture before feeling settled, just imagine what it must be like to suddenly attend a large school and you haven't even unpacked your luggage! How completely daunting! Tina also wrote that she wants to belong to a safe place. This is such an important message to those of us who have been brought up in Horsham or the Wimmera: the strong link between feeling that we belong to a place, and the feeling that we can be safe and secure in the new place.

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