Listen to Sasha and Tysh' interview with CBC Radio
As I do every day, I was at my local pool for exercise and enjoyment of the water. As I waded in, I passed two moms and a dad holding babies. With a big smile, I said how lovely it was to see the babies in the pool. The parents proudly smiled their acknowledgements. As a retired social worker I thought, this is classic attachment. Then, as I went about the routine of my exercise, a startling image returned to me of Alan Kurdi, his little three-year-old body splayed lifeless and alone on a Turkish beach. The contrast was disturbing, between those refugees who had to face water as a dangerous, unforgiving obstacle. An obstacle some would overcome and others whose lives would be snatched by it. We all saw that image of Alan in 2015; his mother, Rehen, and brother, five-year-old Galip, died at the same time, bereft of each other -- detatchment. This morning I was in the pleasure and safety of my local pool with those beautiful smiling babies and their parents.
As these occasional images do, it triggered action everywhere. Here in Canada, it set off a rush to privately sponsor Syrian refugees. The Canadian Government independently acted with urgency to cut much of the bureaucracy to get Syrians to safety.
My wife, Nancy, and I joined a sponsorship group and brought in a Syrian family immediately following Alan Kurdi’s death. Meanwhile, Nancy and I quickly made available space in our basement for a government sponsored refugee family and we have remained friends with them ever since. In fact, all four of the refugee families we have been associated with have integrated and enriched communities across the Saanich Peninsula. But as with the searing photographs of Alan Kurdi, and the “Napalm Girl”, Pham Thi, Kim Phuc, who has as a Canadian citizen devoted her life to those displaced by war, they cycle out of the news to make room for the next crisis. And yet the crisis that brought Alan Kurdi to our attention not only continues but is so much worse. Over twelve million Syrians remain displaced, with over two million in Lebanon, tenuously surviving wherever they are.
Nancy and I now belong to another sponsorship group, “Victoria Shows Love” (https://www.victoriashowslove.ca/), supporting a family of four to find safety out of Lebanon in Victoria. The sister of the husband in this family is a productive member of our community and our sponsorship group. On November 24 we will be presenting the inaugural showing of the Cannes award winning documentary, “Bigger Than US” at the Victoria Theatre as part of our fundraising. It features seven young activists who refuse to remain silent and inactive. They are: Melati, Indonesia (plastics pollution); Mohamad Al Junde, Lebanon (refugee education); Memory Banda, Malawi (child marriage); Mary Finn, Greece (Mediterranean refugee rescue); Xiuhtezcatl Matinez, USA (climate emergency); Rene Silva, Brazil (freedom of speech); Winnie Tushabe, Uganda (food security).
My own grandniece, Mary Finn, is one of the young people featured. She skippered for years one of the fast pick-up boats rescuing refugees from those unforgiving waters in which Alan Kurdi and so many others are still dying, but every morning she still raises a flag of hope. They deserve our support, as do all the people they rise each morning to serve. Please join us in whatever way you are able:
“To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never, to forget.” – Arundhati Roy, The Cost of Living
Terence Stone: Member “Victoria Shows Love”, a private refugee sponsorship group registered with the Intercultural Association of Victoria.