Introducing to you… Status:Welcomed
We’ve spent months (literally) toying around with words and synonyms in hope to name our project in a fitting way. We’ve disagreed and we’ve changed our mind. We’ve dreamt up titles that describe the more negative side of what we’ve seen, like Uprooted and Displaced, and contrasted those with titles that speak of what we hope to see in response to these injustices. We sided with the latter. Here in Canada we’ve begun to notice breakthrough as over a years worth of stories/footage/questions have begun to feel stitched together and like they finally make collective sense. We have a vision for our project; for what we want Status:Welcomed to do, and I’d like to tell you the story of how we got there.
If you’ve been following my team’s journey you’ll know that early on, back in April 2014, we prayerfully decided to focus our travels on learning about refugee and displacement issues. Along the way we’ve been to countries that didn’t have predominant refugee influxes, and in those places we explored broader issues that are related to ‘home’. I’ve researched and photographed four slums within Africa and Asia, and my teammates have studied homelessness, people who live alongside train tracks and illegal migrants. I began to document the diverse versions of ‘home’ that we came across, varying from a railing and a tarpaulin sheet to wooden one-rooms with holes for windows.
In South Africa (where we spent January 2015) we spent a month volunteering for an NGO that offers aid to refugees (Adonis Musati Project/AMP). As a team we grew in compassion as we learned of the specific hardships that a refugee can expect as part of their journey into another country. The few times (over the past 15 months) that we have heard refugees share their story with us, the person retells and relives their tales of fear, loss and grief, sometimes speaking through tears, and their sacrificial willingness to share their pain has helped us to better understand their plight. Through AMP we heard of this NGO’s ten weeks of free seminars offered to refugees/refugee applicants that gives practical aid covering topics like a refugee’s rights, free healthcare access, dealing with depression; grief; loss; forgiveness, and more. For the first time on Track I began to realise the overwhelming amount a refugee has to deal with, all the while attempting to build a new life in a new country, sometimes without an ability to speak the local language. We learned of some who died in this trial.
The refugee issue has been named the worst humanitarian crisis of our time. We team confess to having been left paralysed and doubting of how we can dream up any worthy response to such a worldwide issue. Eventually, one word came to mind and has led us ever since: hospitality. With the heavy multitude of problems that a refugee can expect in leaving their home and fleeing to another country, we’ve noticed how small acts of kindness can be a huge and hopeful part of their story. We’ve heard of people who haven’t eaten in over 24 hours being bought coffee by a kind stranger, and of some who offer rides or pieces of furniture or occasional meals to one in need. In a refugee’s bleak story, these small extensions of generosity become noteworthy to how that refugee tells their tale.
And so, we want to encourage communities to welcome refugees, to be aware of whether their local area houses refugees, and to cultivate environments where a refugee is noticed, heard, welcomed and assisted as they establish roots in a new place.