refugees - stories from afar
THE GIFT I WILL NEVER FORGET
It's 1979 Vietnam: post-Vietnam war, but at war with Cambodia, husband in re-education camp, and children teenagers; what can you do to save them? Send them to America. Easier said than done; but Carina’s mother takes the risk. She secures a place for her three young children on a people smuggler’s boat, and sixteen-year-old Carina, being the eldest, is charged with securing the safety of her siblings.
After avoiding pirates and surviving an attack from the Malaysian authorities, Carina and her boatload of people arrive in Indonesian waters only to be dumped on an uninhabited island, without any supplies or facilities. Initially there were four hundred refugees but by the time they are discovered by UNHCR their numbers had swelled to one thousand.
Carina’s story of courage, kindness, perseverance and teenage self-consciousness illustrates just how similar we all are; and, no matter how dark the times may seem the smallest acts of generosity are enough to keep our faith in the universality of love.
THE UNEXPECTED CHRISTMAS
It’s early on a cold and grey November morning in 1956. It’s her brother’s 15th birthday, but today there’ll be no celebration. Marti and her brother are told to dress in several layers of clothing and be ready for an adventure. Carrying only one briefcase between them the family scrambles onto the back of a truck filled with strangers. The children were instructed to say, if asked, that they are on their way to a wedding somewhere in the countryside. For some reason, this does not surprise them. Possibly, having lived through a bloody revolution they are primed for just about anything.
After being stopped a few times along the way by good natured soldiers who’re ready to believe any story, they arrive at a country farmhouse late that night. After a bowl of soup and some rest, Marti and her family set off on a daring and dangerous journey signposted by hope and compassion. This is a story verging on the miraculous—Christmas angels, Vienna, and a land of plenty.
HOW FOOTBALL SAVED MY LIFE
It’s 1987, South Sudan is in conflict, children from villages are seized and forced to join enemy armed forces. Eleven-year-old Abraham is herding cattle in the fields when pandemonium broke out in the village: gunfire, screaming and the village torched. He and the other boys run for their lives. It would be thirty years before he is reunited with the rest his family.
With a group of children, he walks for months to the relative safety of Ethiopia. Here they build a camp and live for four years. Then once again war forces them to walk for another year, back to South Sudan and then to Kenya.
Wherever they go the boys play football. Luckily, Abraham is a natural and finds recognition and acclaim. Football is his safe place, his family, his home.
THE DAY I GOT BACK MY DAD
It’s 2014 and Hisham is 13. He lives with his family in Homs, one of Syria's most important industrial centres. His father, not an Assad supporter, protests peacefully every day until he is shot by a sniper.
When his father disappears, Hisham thinks his childhood is ended. As the oldest of his siblings and a male, he knows he has to step-up and fill the void. On his father’s return Hisham makes a promise.
Australia helps him fulfil that promise.
It’s 1999, Iraq and Christians are subject to discrimination, government-sanctioned intimidation and routine violence. Kabil has a jewellery business that has been in the family for many generations, but for Mandean Christians, Iraq is becoming increasingly unsafe.
A clandestine, middle-of-the-night journey to Jordan is the beginning of this family’s disintegration. Lack of finances force Kabil to make a most invidious choice: the family must be separated. Fearing for the safety of his eldest daughter, he takes her and his young son and leaves his wife with the other four children, in Jordan.
None of them know how long they will be parted or even if they are ever to be re-united. Love, hope, commitment and strength are their allies.
A STRANGE ISLAND CALLED AUSTRALIA
It’s 1993, Burundi, and Fablice is a seven-year-old orphan. His parents, one a Hutu the other a Tutsi, are victims of the civil war that ravages Burundi for twelve years. Though living on the street, Fablice attends school during the day, and for a time manages to avoid being dragooned into the army.
Eventually he is taken from school and forced to become a child-soldier. After much ill-treatment and many foiled attempts to escape he succeeds, and with the help of relatives he is re-united in a Rwandan refugee camp with his sister and her child.
In 2007 all three of them are granted visas to Australia: ‘a place where black people are considered a delicacy’, he is told by friends in the camp.
This is a story of resilience, humour and hope.
FEELINGS OF THANKFULNESS
It’s 2020 and there are more than 1 million stateless Rohingya in the world and the number keeps increasing. The Rohingya are an ethnic, Muslim minority in the Rakhine State of Myanmar. They have no freedom of movement, access to education or any support services, and the arbitrary confiscation of their property is also within the law.
Zainab, ethnically a Rohingya, born in Malaysia, grows-up in Australia and delights in the possibilities this land has given her. Growing up with different traditions in a foreign land is not always easy or simple. It is not until she is about 16 that Zainab realised what an amazing gift her parents had given her when they left their family and home and migrated to Australia.
Though we are from many lands with diverse cultures we understand how lucky we are to be Australian.
THE AMAZING GIFT OF EDUCATION
It’s 1999 and Attika and her family flee to a refugee camp in Quata, Pakistan. They are Hazara people and Afghanistan has become too dangerous for them. Attika being a girl could not be educated in the small country village where they had lived because girls once they are over 10 years old are not allowed to leave the house unaccompanied.
Attika’s 60-year old father leaves his family and makes his way to Australia in the hope of creating a better life for them. Before he leaves, he urges Attika to study diligently in the refugee camp while she waits for their acceptance into Australia.
This is the story of a girl who given the opportunities of a free and democratic nation becomes a highly educated and grateful Australian.
This series is available for schools with an Australian Children's Television Foundation teachers guide available here.
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