02 August 2011

Exodus of Refugees: Indianapolis, Kenya, New Zealand

We all came from somewhere.
Your ancestors were immigrants.
You wanna shut the gate now that you're in?
Good thing those who came before didn't think the same way.

The Indianapolis Museum of Art was the venue for a conversation on refugees resettling in America. The film viewing "Welcome to Shelbyville" & event was hosted by Exodus Refugee & Immigration Inc, an Indiana-based organisation that works tirelessly to bring hope and normality to displaced peoples.

I am humbled by my work with refugees in New
Zealand. I was encouraged to see that people in my home state were working similarly, though with different restraints and resources.

Welcoming people who have lost so much requires much more than providing food
and shelter. It also means creating a network of support for refugee newcomers in Indianapolis their new home city. A warm offer of friendship and support makes all the difference to these new neighbors. Sharing your experience and a helping hand that expects nothing in return is a rewarding and enlivening opportunity for all. Volunteer opportunities at Exodus include helping to provide refugees with needed services while giving volunteers the chance to learn about other cultures and make new friends.

Te Papa, New Zealand's national museum has a terrific exhibit called The Mixing Room.

"I was living a peaceful life; enjoying life.
I lived in a place where I belonged.
Then all of a sudden that all changed and
I didn't know if I was going to live or die."
Isse, from Somalia, 27 years old.

Part of the timeline of refugees arriving in New Zealand for various reasons,
all of which were totally beyond their control.
The same circumstances could happen to any one of us.

Happening right now . . .

A United Nations agency wants Kenya to open up a new settlement to accommodate refugees who have flocked the Daadab camp.

The head of the UN refugee agency Antonio Guterres was taken aback by the pathetic state of affairs at the camp, one of the word’s largest, when he visited at the weekend.

“I have visited refugee camps around the world, but I must admit I have never seen people living under such conditions,” he said.

According to UNHCR, the camp initially set up to cater for only 90,000 refugees, has now exceeded the number by nearly five time

‘Poorest of the poor and the most vulnerable of the vulnerable'

The UN refugee agency is still pressing the Kenyan government to accept another group of at least 35,000 people. The other camps are Dagahaley, Ifo and Hagadera.

The situation has been worsened by the current drought in the Horn of Africa region, which is estimated to have affected at least 10 million people across Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Somalia.

“It is tragic that vulnerable families are trapped in limbo, forced to endure appalling conditions while there are fully functioning services right next door. Their basic needs are being ignored,” said Joost van de Lest, head of Oxfam in Kenya.

The number of refugees at the camp continues to increase every day even as it emerges that it is not just the war in Somalia that is pushing them into Kenya — many are escaping the hunger and famine back home.

They arrive in droves, with most of the women and children too weak to walk or even stand.

Kenya did not cause this catastrophe. Do you think they need to respond humanely?

What is your response to similar needs in your own community?

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