The people I work with are refugees. They come to Hong Kong to seek protection from the atrocities in their homeland. They arrive with a big weight on their shoulders and pain in their guts, hoping for a better life from the one they left behind. Refugees are not recognized in Hong Kong. This means they will never be integrated into Hong Kong society, unable to work or study. Refugees are most often resettled to a third country, United States, Canada or Sweden where they are welcomed and able to start their lives again. But this process of resettlement can take a staggering 5 years plus. So they wait, doing their best to have their basic needs met.
I have had the privilege of working with the refugee community since 2004. I love my job. I work with people from all over the world – Somalia, Rwanda, Georgia, Iran, Congo, Egypt just to name a few. I see them arrive in such bad shape, carrying the trauma they have endured. Over time I witness their transformation into empowered individuals, ready to contribute and participate in society. It’s a pleasure to be part of this journey. With each individual I work with, I learn something; I too, grow from the experience. And I do my best to keep in contact with all of them once they are resettled and start their new life. One refugee who I keep in contact with is Geedan. I met him in 2007 when I was working at Christian Action. Geedan came to Hong Kong to seek protection from the troubles he and his family endured in Somalia. He always carried a smile and a positive attitude, no matter the circumstance. He was so determined to learn English that he would come into my office most days to share his stories. He would tell me about his family; his love for karate and the kindness he felt towards the people who were helping him restart his life.
I remember the day the UNHCR announced they would resettle him. He was told he was moving to Las Vegas. I thought what is a Somalian shopkeeper/farmer going to do in Las Vegas? But, the refugee community is so resourceful, determined and ready to start their lives again – nothing will stop them. Within a month of his arrival, Geedan applied for a job as a cleaner in a large hotel. He worked hard but the pay was low. He was eager to have his family join him as soon as he can afford their arrival. Through his new community, Geedan learned of a way to make better money. He applied for a job as a fisherman which would relocate him this month to Codova, Alaska. We have spoken often since the move. He is delighted to have his new job and he looks forward to boarding the boat to start his new life as a Somali fisherman in Alaska. The people I work with are refugees. But not forever! They tread through the difficulties that face them. Not giving up, they are determined to start their lives again. They are strong, stronger than most people I know. With a little support they can shine and just look at that smile Geedan is wearing. I love my job! – Danielle (Centre Manager)