The experience of working with Vision First as a teacher will always stay with me, not as a snapshot of something fixed in the past but as something that changes my thinking and behaviour now and in future. Frank’s comment comes to mind that whenever we are with people, regardless of how they appear to act, we may not know how they are feeling unless we understand the language of their lives. We can’t understand others unless, as the old lyric almost puts it, we walk a mile in their shoes.
Vision First is as much an activity as it is a place of refuge. People come and go, problems occur and are solved, in many cases. The problems are of day-to-day living: of finding rent and food; of getting from one place to another; of pursuing a host country in sometimes frustrating, small bureaucratic steps; of filling out forms and meeting with officials who may help, but often so very slowly; of learning the behaviour and language of a foreign and sometimes strange country; and of finding a home and peace and work. I came in and left without solving anything but I was a small part of this vital activity. However frustrating it may be at times for refugees, and those who try to help them, the alternative of not doing this activity would be much worse.
I will miss my class friends, but I won’t forget them. I will miss their humour and resourcefulness, and their dignity under pressure. I will miss those who often made their ideas known in class in a language that is not their native language. It takes courage to do this. But I will also miss those for whom English is new and very difficult, and who made progress sometimes painfully over the classes, and whose voices became stronger. In the end we’re all on the same boat and must help others to help ourselves. It’s an old cliche but I learned a lot more from my students than I suspect they learned from me. And I am grateful for this. I will continue my involvement with Vision First by spreading the word of this remarkable organization and its people.