There is a saying, “An idle brain is the devil’s workshop” and I believe the opposite is even more true. As an asylum-seeker, I used to feel disempowered by Immigration Laws that bar employment. Coming from a country where everyone works for a living, I was forced to beg for every single dollar. After a considerable period of idleness, I concluded that in fact I wasn’t as disabled as my situation suggested. It dawned on me that I had to do something about it. I realized that I was very RICH, just not in money, but in knowledge. Following the adage, “the poor ask for more, while the rich ask for better,” I was determined to ask for better in Hong Kong - my prison without walls.
What did I have to offer? I asked myself. I had a story to share … but tell it to whom? Tell it to anybody who cares to listen. Wow!!! There you go, I had something to do. I picked up a pen and jotted down whatever entered my mind. Then I discovered the work I was fleshing out was taking form. A small voice inside me whispered, “Bravo, kept it up!” I burned the candle at both ends and knew it wasn’t fiction, but a true story, a life story – my life! As time passed, I became a veteran asylum-seeker, senior among many, and I was thankfully happy I kept busy. In December 2007 I completed my first booklet and called it: “The Life of an asylum-seekers in Hong Kong“. Writing kept me so busy I hardly kept track of my refugee claim. After the Asia Human Rights Commission published it, I was invited to talk about my experience at several institutions, including Hong Kong International School, Chinese University, Hong Kong University and Baptist University. These were wonderful opportunities to meet students, teachers and many people from all walks of life. It was a two-ways street of learning, I learnt from them, while they learnt from me. Especially meaningful was meeting Prof.Gordon Mathews (Globalization) and Prof. Christophe (Political Violence & Human Rights ) with whom friendship developed.
I never stopped counting my blessings. While writing, I also studied anthropology and improved my English. Moreover, I thought about the poor kids in my homeland who had no school, and therefore no education. Before coming here, I dreamed of founding a school to help the poorest children prepare for the future. In my country, following prolonged civil war, there is a large street community of women and children with no hope for the future. I wanted to help them, so I looked for donations to set up something. I must thank Crossroads International that donated more than what I asked for. They helped fulfill my dream of opening a primary school – thank you Begbies and all their staff!
As a Christian I realize my blessings cannot be counted. All along I have been involved with St. Andrews, which is my home away from home. They keep me strong in many more ways than just spiritual. My church is a big family where everyone is welcomed and treated equally. I help them lead the International Fellowship Ministry which caters to refugees stranded in Hong Kong. Through my ministry I really learnt to love my neighbors as myself. A big thanks to Vicar John Manear, Rev. Wing On Pang, David Brittel, Vivian, Shirley and all my brothers and sisters in Christ. No matter what your life circumstances are, living means interacting with people. I had the privilege to meet a great gentleman I will never forget all my life - the late Rev. Tan Chi Kiong. He was the founder of YMCA Hong Kong. Actually, he was like a grandfather to me, a man of great wisdom who encouraged my second Book “Africasia Alike” (soon to be published). May the Lord God rest his soul in eternal life!
Further, I have always thought it important to dress well, much to the surprise of who thinks I have a respectable job. Thankfully there are charities that offer quality clothing through community’s generosity. Also, Prof. Mathew provided computers to his refugee students and Mr. Vision First (Cosmo) always helps with my monthly costs, including offering internet access to keep me informed. Thanks to you all! There are many other individuals who helped me think positively during seven, disheartening years of asylum. They are counselors, Madam Betty Mok at UNHCR and Mr. John at Christian Actions. I went through terrible times and couldn’t have coped without their kind, professional help. I spoke at a couple of movie openings and met my favorite movie star – Jacky Chan – who signed the shirt I was wearing and still keep as a souvenir. Finally, my friend Judith Mackay of Globalink Hong Kong is not only a mentor in the tobacco field, but also a helpful friend in my protracted need. Always aiming to keep busy with every opportunity, I completed ten training modules from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (Global Tobacco Control) and won a Poetry Competition with “Sense of Asylum”.
I wrote this blog to encourage my friends who are struggling as refugees. May you stand strong, take heart and never lose hope in your darkest nights. While waiting in desperate inactivity, never feel useless and never, ever allow anyone to make you feel worthless. Being a refugee is not your fault. There is dignity to be found in our suffering and, far from being disabled, there is much we can offer the community. By keeping busy and actively engaging people, you can transcend the trauma and memories that hold you back. It takes effort. It takes courage. We can make the transformation when we put our mind to it. God has a plan for you – get up, go out and discover for yourself what his plan is!
Lakony Wilson DD (firstname.lastname@example.org)