Thursday, October 14, 2010



I come from a musical place
Where they shoot me for my song
And my brother has been tortured
By my brother in my land.

I come from a beautiful place
Where they hate my shade of skin
They don't like the way I pray
And they ban free poetry.

I come from a beautiful place
Where girls cannot go to school
There you are told what to believe
And even young boys must grow beards.

I come from a great old forest
I think it is now a field
And the people I once knew
Are not there now.

We can all be refugees
Nobody is safe,
All it takes is a mad leader
Or no rain to bring forth food,
We can all be refugees, we can all be told to go,
We can be hated by someone
For being someone.

I come from a beautiful place
Where the valley floods each year
And each year the hurricane tells us
That we must keep moving on.

I come from an ancient place
All my family were born there
And I would like to go there
But I really want to live.

I come from a sunny, sandy place
Where tourists go to darken skin
And dealers like to sell guns there
I just can't tell you what's the price.

I am told I have no country now
I am told I am a lie
I am told that modern history books
May forget my name.

We can all be refugees
Sometimes it only takes a day,
Sometimes it only takes a handshake
Or a paper that is signed.
We all came from refugees
Nobody simply just appeared,
Nobody's here without a struggle,
And why should we live in fear
Of the weather or the troubles?
We all came here from somewhere.

~ Benjamin Zephaniah

A heartfelt response to the above poem from Rugare Gomo, formerly a refugee from Zimbabwe, who now heads the, an NGO who's mission is to  provide access to education and challenge societal barriers that stop children from realizing their potential.

While in India, I had the privilege of meeting Francoise Bosteels. Originally from Belgium, Fran├žoise has spent the past 40 years in India and is the creator of iconic dolls that are inspired by people's day to day life experiences. One of the series she has created is called 'We Refugees' and has inspired me to share part of my story of what it was really like for me being in Australia while my whole family was in Zimbabwe during the Zimbabwean crisis.

I remember when I finished high school in Melbourne and the Zimbabwean political crisis was getting worse: universities were closed for months on end, youth were being forced to go to training camps run by 'war veterans', white farmers were being killed and so were the farm workers, passports of those who had lived overseas and returned were being confiscated. Inflation was beyond what could be imaginable, there was no food in the shops, no petrol for transport. Nothing worked and the country was literally falling apart. It was a scary time. Reading the newspaper would make me ill and I would be mentally paralysed. Every time I read a report of a house being burn down I would wonder if I would see my family being killed live on TV. It was horrible; horrible to hear of killings, horrible of hearing of relatives being beaten up, horrible not knowing what was happening to my family. The thought of going back was terrifying. I knew, I had two options, find a way to raise funds to go to university or claim asylum in Australia. I am lucky, I raised the funds, I made it. But I know what it is like to be fearful for one's life, fearful of going to a country were there is no hope and no future. Do you really know what it is like?

When I became a lawyer, I volunteered for 2 years at the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC). The ASRC, is a well run organisation committed to assisting those who claim asylum with their applications. I predominantly assisted African and french speaking asylum seekers. I got to confront the horror that when the most vulnerable need it most we are willing to say no we won't help you. I am one of the lucky ones, when I did need it the most, Melbournians said it was not ok for me not to have an education, it was not ok for me to go back to a country where I could have been tortured or killed. However, being lucky sounds like gambling to me. What of all the other people who have fled rape, violence and massacres? Don't they need our protection? I acknowledge all asylum seekers who for most parts have gone through a traumatic circumstances have the courage to flee and seek to rebuild their life in a land that is safe. I am so sorry that we as a humans are not always willing to say yes, we will find a way to help you because you are human like me. So of course, when I met Fran├žoise and she shared her series on refugees, it touched my soul and, it is my privilege to share this unpublished poem inspired by her iconic dolls called 'We Refugees':

Dear Francoise, It was a real honour to meet you.  I thank you for your contribution to the world in educating us to make make a difference and through the dolls you create communicate to us at a whole new level about global affairs.  I am so inspired by you. 

 Thank you for allowing me to share your story and the refugee poem through my platform. 

 Best, Rugare Gomo

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