Have you ever wondered how it is to be a refugee? I had, many times. When living in London, one of the most international cities in the world, I was asking myself what are the stories of the people I meet on the streets, the ones who live here but their country is far, far away. You could easily recognize those people, mainly by the way they dress, by the work they do (you could often see them doing the work any local person would never do), by the way they behave. You could see them everywhere yet you would almost never have the conversation with them. One place, two different worlds. It was five years ago, I was still a teenager and have not thought about starting even a small talk with them.
This weekend I could finally get to know their stories. I have been participated in The Incitement in Kuala Lumpur, a global movement of local communities born out the idea that everybody has something worth sharing. The topic of the episode was “Possibilities are endless” and so was the attitude of the people who shared their stories during the event.
There were two speeches that moved me, the stories that presented me the life I have never experienced, yet at the same the feelings and the emotions I know so well. Those were the stories of two big dreamers from Somalia who have the status of refugees in Malaysia: Shafie Sharif, teacher at Fugee School for refugees from Somalia in Malaysia and his student, 18-year-old Ahmed.
At this moment you are probably thinking about all those poor people from Africa that media are talking about. Please, don’t. What I want to share with you in this post are the people that impressed me with their passion, their attitude toward life; beautiful, strong individuals who dream big and realize their dreams.
Mr Sharif started to work as a child, helping out his mother in making the living for the family. He was selling bread, collecting the rubbish, trying at the same time to get the education at school. It was not easy due to financial situation, yet he learnt English and maths. He was truly passionate about it and wanted to go further, to learn more. He managed to get to the college and later to the university, helping at the same time the others to gain the knowledge. Because of the political situation and the war in Somalia, he ended up as refugee in Malaysia. Knowing how relevant education is, he opened Fugee School in Kuala Lumpur for young refugees from his country. Now he is doing his doctorate and he opened virtual university for people in Somalia. He not only strives for what is important to him, but shares with his passion to knowledge with other Somali people, enabling them to get the education and gain the skills that would enable them to live their life more fully, the life of opportunities.
And you could see it listening to one of his students, Ahmed, who came as refugee to Malaysia few years ago. He didn’t speak English neither Malai and he couldn’t communicate with the only children in the neighbourhood. He realised that if he wants to have friends here he needs to communicate with people in their own language. It took him time, it was not easy, but he has learnt English. Ahmed is 18 and he dreams about the things many consider as granted – to have a good job as businessman and to drive an expensive car; and he wants to help others. He dreams of getting the scholarship to continue his education and to be able to stay for now in Malaysia. There was one sentence he said that stuck in my mind:
No one would ever stop me to realize my dreams.
The day after I went to visit Fugee School to meet with children. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, it was my first experience of this kind. It was the place where the magic happens.Youngsters from the age of 10 to 18, who have experienced more in their lives that many adults; these young people have their heads and their hearts full of dreams, BIG dreams, they are passionate, full of positive energy, full of big thoughts. I was amazed by 14-year-old Yasmiin with a beautiful smile, who was giving the speech on why education of young Somali is important to rebuild her country.
They are also mature. Yasmiin told me her mother passed away before she came to Malaysia. In that moment I have realised that this girl, ten yours younger than me, is much more ripened that I am. I have never experienced death of the person that is so close to me and this is one of the few things that terrifies me.
I got to know the stories, and I hope to know more. These stories made me realised how similar we all are. When Ahmed was saying about difficulties learning English and how important it was for him to make friends, it brought me back the memories about my difficulties to adjust to new life abroad, when you start from scratch. He reminded me that we would get what we really want to, we just cannot give up on the way. Mr Sharif showed me that no matter how much we have there is always something we can give to others – that is our time, our knowledge, our passion. Yasmiin thaught me that it is not matter of your age, yet your spirit and your passion, to make the things that are changing our environment in positive way.