Understanding the Experiences of Life with a Refugee

» Posted by on Aug 29, 2014 in understanding the experiences of life | 0 comments

Understanding the Experiences of Life with a Refugee

Recently, Dr. Warren Bruhl suggested that I read The State of Africa: A History of the Continent Since Independence, by Martin Meredith. Although I have only read the first chapter, I can see that understanding the experiences of life in Africa because of its history will have a profound affect on my work. For example, while teaching Adult Basic Education (ABE), assisting students to gain their General Educational Development (GED) at Highline Community College (HCC), one of my students was a refugee from Liberia. Here is his story in his own words:

Washington Collins and me, HCC, June 2005.

Washington Collins and me, HCC, June 2005.

In the year 1990 when the war started in my country, Liberia, I was very young; I was ten years old. My father and mother planned to move to another country called Ivory Coast. After a week we came to the Ivory Coast, to a town called Tai. This country is not an English speaking country, so it was very hard for the people that speak English to live there.

The children of Ingrid would  be left at home to fend for themselves, wander in the streets, or be vulnerable to abuse without the existence of Ingrid Education Centre, Nairobi, Kenya, January 2013.

The children of Ingrid would be left at home to fend for themselves, wander in the streets, or be vulnerable to abuse without the existence of Ingrid Education Centre, Nairobi, Kenya, January 2013.

One month later, there is nothing we can do to earn money or food for us to eat; no school, and nothing we can do at all. Fortunately, the people from the UN, which is the United Nations, came and began to help the refugees with food and some other things. Also, they brought school for the refugee children to attend from 1992 to 1998, which was an English school, for free. From 1992 to 1998, we attended the refugee school. Some of us were able to go far.

In the year 1998, when the school closed and people had to pay money to got to school, it was very hard for me to go back to school, and secondly, my father was not alive. So my mother and I were alone and there is no money for me to pay for my school fee. I did not attend school for three years.

Students at Ingrid Education Centre are extremely motivated to learn, January 2013.

Students at Ingrid Education Centre are extremely motivated to learn, January 2013.

After 2001, I went back to school and my schooling continued. In 2003, war began in the Ivory Coast also, so the UN tried to take us from there and brought us here (to the US).

Today, I am able to be in peace and freedom; also, I am happy about my education, and I thank God I am here. –Washington Collins, HCC, September 29, 2005

Thank you, Washington, for so candidly sharing your story with us. Reading The State of Africa is helping me in understanding the experiences of life from the African point of view. Washington’s story has more context for me than it did before. I have always been moved by individuals who persevered in spite of their circumstances, but now I have more context for understanding the experiences of life from Washington’s point of view.

Why is it important to understand another individual’s point of view?
What can we learn from understanding the experiences of life through their eyes?
How will this help us in the future?

Sandy Taylor spoon feeding water to a small child, Kimana, Kenya, December 2013. Photo by Beret Meyers Photography.

Sandy Taylor spoon feeding water to a small child, Kimana, Kenya, December 2013. Photo by Beret Meyers Photography.

I am reminded of the time that Yeshua (Jesus) went to Sychar, a town of Samaria because He wanted to speak to a woman of that town. She was completely surprised that He had asked her for a drink because as the text says, traditionally the Jews had nothing to do with the Samaritans even though they were cousins:

The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?”

(For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) –John 4:9

Addressing the needs of the elderly in Kenya encourages other members of the community to participate in receiving care, Kimana, Kenya, December 2013. Photo by Beret Meyers Photography.

Addressing the needs of the elderly in Kenya encourages other members of the community to participate in receiving care, Kimana, Kenya, December 2013. Photo by Beret Meyers Photography.

Yeshua (Jesus) understood her perspective, and got right to the point, stating that He could meet her most basic need, which was for water. Empathizing with her, acknowledging her perspective, and addressing her needs provided an avenue through which Yeshua was able to help her see the truth, which then led to her being the catalyst for the entire town to receive the Messiah:

Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” –John 4:39-42

Examination time! Kimana, Kenya, December 2013. Photo by Beret Meyers Photography.

Examination time! Kimana, Kenya, December 2013. Photo by Beret Meyers Photography.

Understanding the experiences of life helps organizations like Dreamweaver International and Ingrid Education Centre create opportunities for individuals that improve lives. Dreamweaver International provides medical care assistance through their medical missions and in undertaking the creation of Kilimanjaro Mission Hospital.

They endeavor to provide education to help the needy become the needed through Kimana School of Leadership and Professional Studies. In addition, they provide hope to children by providing sports equipment through Gear for Goals and teaching the rudiments of the game of baseball. Helping individuals in another country become successful starts with understanding the experiences of life from their point of view.

Children share the excitement of receiving equipment from Gear for Goals. Photo by Beret Meyers Photography.

Children share the excitement of receiving equipment from Gear for Goals. Photo by Beret Meyers Photography.

Contact Dr. Warren Bruhl via email: dr.bruhl@dreamweaver911.org or other members of  the Board through Dreamweaver International to support Kimana School or Leadership and Professional Studies, Kilimanjaro Mission Hospital, or Gear for Goals

Contact Douglas Monene, founder of Ingrid Education Centre via email: douglasmonene@gmail.com to learn how to sponsor one of the children who attend Ingrid

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