I Want People To Know Refugees Aren’t Monsters

I Want People To Know Refugees Aren’t Monsters

Rnita Refugee Council of Australia

My name is Rnita, I’m 28 and I have been living in Sydney for just over three years.

I arrived in June 2015 when my family and I were forced to leave our home country Syria because of the war and the danger, uncertainty and suffering we faced every day. Reflecting on the past year and the ongoing situations in Nauru and Manus, I want to share my story and help people understand what it’s really like to be a refugee.

Life in Syria

There are many reasons I left Syria. My family was part of the revolution against the Bashar Assad regime meaning we lived in constant fear for three years. I was a teacher working at a government school and I left the house every day not knowing whether I’d come back. It was commonplace for people who were against the government to be harassed, arrested or just disappear.

One Spring day when I was in the city doing paperwork, a big bomb exploded just like that. I wasn’t hurt but it was shocking to see first-hand how a split second can change your life.

We didn’t have electricity for days and wouldn’t know when we were next going to see light. There was no phone coverage, no food to buy and no clean water so we’d drink from wells. I now look at the Syrian people as 18 million heroes to live like this day in, day out.

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To make matters worse, my father was in prison where he was beaten and tortured because he was against the regime – he wouldn’t stand for unfairness and injustice. He now suffers from a bad back as a long-lasting reminder of his time there. My brother was an activist and was at risk of being imprisoned too so we needed to leave the country desperately.

First, Lebanon

First of all, we moved to Lebanon where we faced a lot of pressure. The Lebanese people treated didn’t accept us as refugees and treated us like garbage. I started having epilepsy seizures because of the stress and one time when it was an emergency, I was turned away by seven different ERs because I was Syrian.

We applied to move to many countries including America, Brazil, places in Europe and Australia where we had extended family. After months of waiting, we were accepted by Australia. The day we found out, I wept for joy. We felt so lucky.

I held on to my phone for 15 hours a day for two months in case they called back about the next stage of the process! It sounds extreme but these phone calls were life changing for my family and me.

planet spectrum

Arriving in Australia

We arrived in Sydney on 18 June 2015 and coincidently the city was celebrating the International Refugee Day. I actually had a panic attack in the airport after hearing all of the English around me. I only knew three words of the language and was totally overwhelmed.

Once the panic had faded, I felt immense relief. I started learning English after being in Australia for 10 days and was blessed that people accepted us with open arms. I wanted to get a job and start paying taxes to repay the country and the Australian people for their hospitality as soon as possible.

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Making a difference

I’m now working for the Refugee Council of Australia in a communications role and am also studying at the same time so I can progress in this type of job in the future. The Refugee Council of Australia is the national umbrella body for organisations which help refugees and asylum seekers, advocating for more humane policies based on consultations with real people about their needs.

It’s great because the voices of refugees are heard and we work to show decision makers that we’re not monsters – we’re just normal people. Personally I would like to see detention centres closed. People are treated as less than human in offshore processing.

Through my journey I have learnt to be strong and resilient and am forever grateful for the love the Australian people have shown me. I’m looking forward to continuing my work with the Refugee Council of Australia in 2019 and truly hope it’s a year for better policy and real change for refugees and asylum seekers just like me.

The Refugee Council of Australia advocates for humane, lawful and constructive policies with and for refugees and asylum seekers. It is a small, not-for-profit organisation which relies on donations from the public. To donate, please visit www.refugeecouncil.org.au/donations

 

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The World’s Most Influential Young People Inspiring The Way For 2019

The World’s Most Influential Young People Inspiring The Way For 2019

The World's Most Influential Young People Inspiring the way for 2019 by Montanna Macdonald for Ponderings Magazine

The world is grueling, inspiring and unequivocally extraordinary in all its facets.

It is important not to lose sight of what the world of other people just like you, are doing to make a change. It’s important to see beyond the norms and expectations on what society places upon you and look for inspiration as a pattern of universal effect. Some of us, and silently a lot of us have big aspirations and goals, yet are stuck in this cycle of societal consumerism and sleeping through our alarm clocks. So maybe it’s time we set a new period, a better mindset with the help of other influential younglings who are making their path to follow.

So who are the most inspiring young people of our day and age? Who is making a change? Who is not doing what every other young person thinks they should be doing? Who is unique, and will make you want to get up out of bed this morning?

Krtin Nithiyanandam, Age 17

17-year-old Krtin Nithiyanandam went from a broken pelvis; to an idea, finding universities who would support him in his award-winning research for an antibody that would detect early signs of Alzheimer’s disease. This research led to Nithiyanandam receiving the Scientific American Innovator Award at the Google Science Fair in 2017. Nithiyanandam has also worked with researchers at Cambridge University to try and make rare and hard to treat breast cancer more treatable. A young man who will stop at nothing to find cures, and save lives.

 

Muzoon Almellehan, Age 19

Muzoon Almellehan is a Syrian refugee and Activist for female education.  In June 2017, she became the youngest Goodwill Ambassador to UNICEF, which made her the first person in the world with official refugee status to become an ambassador for the global organisation. Almellehan’s accomplishments and hard work are truly inspiring in shaping the future for females in education and human rights.  

Shibby de Guzman, Age 14

Shibby de Guzman is only 14 years old and is one of TIMES 30 most influential people of the world. Why is she influential? At 14 she’s protesting the streets with cardboard signs on her chest standing up against Rodrigo Duterte’s fascist regime under the Philippines government. It is a dangerous and courageous act for de Guzman to stand up against a government and uphold what you believe is right.

Macinley Butson, Age 17

Macinley Butson is an Australian girl who at the age of 17 was the youngest recipient to date of the INTEL International Science and Engineering Award and the 2018 NSW Young Australian of the Year for her invention called the Smart Amour. The Smart Amour acts as a protection layer for breast cancer patients while they are undergoing radiotherapy. An idea which sparked to Butson’s mind while sitting at the dinner table with her dad.

Molly Steer,  Age 10

Molly Steer is another Australian girl who at the age of nine with the help of her mum made her Straw No More campaign to remove plastic straws from schools around Australia. Steer has convinced over 90 and counting Australian and International schools to cull the plastic straw. What was only meant to be a small change in Steer’s Cairns home, became an international campaign, resulting in Steer delivering a TEDx speech in 2017. A small step for Molly, but a big step in environmental change.

It is often mentioned that the younger generation is aimless, entitled and echoes of “millennial-itis”  call across the conversations of many of our elders, however I think you will agree with us – this is just not always the case. The selection of young people we have shown you are but a sample of SO MANY! The future is bright, and it may be an aspect for us to ponder on how we spend our energy, our time and the path we choose to take.

As the iconically wise Dr. Suess once said,

You have brains in your head,

And feet in your shoes,

You can steer yourself,

Any direction you choose.

 

 

About the Author:

Montanna Macdonald is currently studying journalism and public relations at University, and we welcome her as a contributor to Ponderings.  The love of meaningful and impacting communication fuels this passionate public speaker and an avid debate is always on hand with a social conscience that runs deep. This go-getter will write a speech to move an audience and inspire them into change. She doesn’t mind being friends with Muggles and wears her Gryffindor scarf with pride. Montanna has a love for broadcast media but doesn’t subscribe to the status quo. Robert Frost is her go to along with Dr. Seuss.

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