Communicating and connecting as a refugee
Imagine being forced from your home because of persecution, conflict, violence, or human rights violations. Seeking safety is dangerous. Especially when you find yourself somewhere new, when you don’t speak the language of the people around you, let alone the aid workers trying to help you. You are vulnerable to scammers and traffickers. You can’t ask the questions you want to ask, and you can’t get the information you need. That’s the story of people in all corners of the world: the story we’re telling today through the lens of our community members.
89.3 million people worldwide don’t have to imagine.
Refugees, migrants and forcibly displaced people deserve the opportunity to have their voices heard. Vulnerable people face some of the most difficult situations imaginable. Marginalized at the edges of society, too often their needs and concerns go unmet. Together, we can change that.
How can we show solidarity with refugees?
When we put people first, when we prioritize access to vital services, resources and information, we can better support their wellbeing, health, safety and education. When we do so in the languages people speak, their worlds, which have already been turned upside down, become a little fairer. They get to know their rights, they can make informed decisions, their opportunities grow, and they can participate in dialogue that matters to them.
Our members bring diverse experiences to the TWB community, of resilience, of overcoming difficult journeys, of integrating into new communities, and understanding their identities. Many have been displaced from their homes, and still find time to dedicate to translating, reviewing and recording voice-overs so they can help people elsewhere. We want to share their voices with you, and start a conversation. This is part of our movement to listen to marginalized voices everywhere, whatever language they speak. Learn more about our Four Billion Conversations movement.
Read these community member stories
Lilav Mohamad Alarashi and Christina Hakim are Arabic speakers and valued TWB community members who have both contributed their stories to spotlight real-life refugee experiences in the world today.
Lilav’s story of war and its archenemy, hope
Can you imagine yourself as a child during a war, with your playgrounds replaced by battlefields filled with dead bodies, blood, and rubble?
Or, for example, all the delight of colors which were shining in your life disappeared, and now you are haunted by the dust of war and the smell of death wherever you turn?
Have you ever imagined that your existence in your own home would turn into a nightmare that can transform your whole life into a living hell?
These horrible imaginations are exactly what thousands of children and refugees experience today in several places around the world. Wars and conflicts can truly destroy everyone’s future and leave them living in very bad conditions, where they have to start from zero. They face an obscure life and future. Loss and waiting are the two biggest pains experienced by refugees during their long journey of displacement, and every refugee’s heart is heavy with fear and anticipation.
Besides all of that, the scars and memories will bleed deeply even if they move to safe settings where they can be in peace.
Wars never stop killing everything, but there is always a little hope hidden away in every refugee’ tear that will never fade/disappear.
Translators without Borders and its partner non-governmental organizations provide me with an opportunity as a translator and reviser to help refugees through the delivery of the needed words, information, and knowledge in their language, allowing us all to be there for every refugee who is facing a challenge in a foreign country and a foreign language.
Therefore, I will use every skill I have such as translation experience and every education I’ve obtained, such as law, to make a difference in this universe.
Read in Arabic / اقرأ المدوّنة باللّغة العربيّة
Christina’s day in a life of a refugee
I write in English, hoping to reach a wider audience as I’m sure it is the story of every human, regardless of nationality, who seeks to earn enough to provide for their family, to get out of their country, and bring them up if they’re lucky enough. At times, their motherland has failed to secure them their basic rights of survival as humans; financial and social stability, to name the most vital.
The reasons that pushed that young lady to leave her country, the mother or father who found no choice but to do that, the brother… every story is the same!
I am a Lebanese citizen who, like most migrants, found herself in a no-way-back situation. There’s nothing but to look forward to her children’s future outside of her homeland.
It’s still unofficially stated that “Lebanese” people are defined as refugees. Away from the literal classification of the word, the rush of miseries that hit the country since the #August2020blast and instability has pushed its people to migrate in remarkable numbers for years now.
In the World Happiness Report for the year 2022 issued by the United Nations, Lebanon ranked first in the Arab world among the least happy, and second among the most miserable people after Afghanistan.
What can be more devastating than someone taking the decision to leave behind their child, wife, sibling, parents, neighbor; desperate about a country that is one of the most beautiful on earth, known for its nature, culture, resources and memories?
You reach your host land, and here we face two scenarios:
The first, a person who flees alone.
The second, a person leaving with their family. And here I mean spouse and children, not parents; it’s incredibly rare to find elderly people who come to terms with leaving their roots behind, whatever the circumstances.
If you choose to flee alone, if you’re unable to bring your family with you to your host country, your days are never the same again. You live through loneliness, nostalgia with every minute passed, missing the smells, the smiles. What comes next is more dreadful, a constant quest to find the right opportunity, with the least humiliation possible and everything that comes with it. Now how do you go about living? That all depends on your chance of finding a well-paid job, otherwise you’ll end up in a shared apartment with people who have become refugees for the same reasons you have.
What now? You miss your roots? Your only way to connect with them is to text and call. I have known Filippinos who haven’t visited their families in years!
Have a look around when you’re on your commute to work and you can see, be it early morning or late at night. Across Europe, African people gather under a tree with no place to sleep, spending their nights in parks; Egyptians, Syrians, Algerians all share the same destiny, scattered around the world.
What about your work: remotely located and harsh conditions, with overbearing managers… how much more can you take? Would you respect yourself in that moment and have the courage to change jobs or even return back to your home country?
Sadly speaking, this is the life of every refugee, day-dreaming of the moment they might be reunited with their homeland; this is the life of every human who has lost their existence in their own country.
Community conversation: World Refugee Day
On June 20, 2022 we marked World Refugee Day with an online panel discussion. We invited a number of experts to speak about their experiences of forced migration. This year’s theme was whoever, wherever, whenever. It’s a message of inclusivity, reminding people that all refugees deserve our solidarity and support whatever their nationality, religion, or language.
You can watch the recording here.
What barriers do refugees, migrants and displaced people face?
Ahmed Ali Saleh hosted the event. Ahmed has spent 3 years working as a National Capacity Building Officer in Nigeria, and is currently a Program Manager for CLEAR Global. He explained how CLEAR Global is committed to helping all refugees overcome communication barriers. Whether fleeing Myanmar, Venezuela, Nigeria, Ukraine, or somewhere else, we work to connect people with the aid and services they need. Our solutions bridge the language and communication gaps too many people face.
“In the course of implementing training programs, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to Borno’s border communities. The state borders three different countries, and this gave me the chance to witness firsthand people with refugee status who cannot speak the language of the country that is hosting them. Equally, the communities hosting them do not speak their language. That is quite challenging. You can see the enthusiasm when we speak their language – they know you understand them very, very well.”Ahmed Ali Saleh
Joining us, we had Mira Hamour, a Syrian-Canadian documentary filmmaker and producer of Syria’s Tent Cities. Mira spoke about the experience of documenting the Syrian refugee crisis, visiting camps in Jordan and Lebanon as well as closer to home in Toronto and Ontario. She has lived and worked with relocated refugees in host communities.
“I saw very closely how language and lack of education can be a barrier for these children.”Mira Hamour
Next on the panel was Chris Akili Lungu, a TWB Community member and social worker and monitoring and evaluation associate working with Soccer Without Borders, an NGO supporting young people. Chris himself fled the Democratic Republic of Congo a few years ago. His story is familiar in our community:
“Through organizations like TWB and Soccer Without Borders, I am glad to be able to help refugees who find themselves in similar situations to me.”Chris Akili Lungu
And finally, Katya Seriekh is a talent attraction manager working with the International Committee of the Red Cross, based in Brussels. The organization works with professionals including interpreters and translators to make sure migrants and refugees get the protection they need.
“Language is very important. The words spoken are not everything. It’s very important to establish a connection and establish a relationship of trust. That’s why it’s very important to speak the languages of the people we’re supporting.”Katya Seriekh
Our participants discussed the challenges facing displaced people, what they’re doing to help, and how you can get involved. Bringing together speakers from across our team, our community and our partners, this LinkedIn Live is an opportunity to learn from each other and understand how we can build a stronger movement together.
Watch the recording below.
Amplify refugee voices
The TWB Community and our parent organization CLEAR Global will continue to share the stories of refugees, migrants, and forcibly displaced people. This is why we do what we do – we build communities, research communication and develop language technology solutions because we believe that every person has the right to get vital information and be heard, whatever language they speak. Our community members are making information accessible to more people in more languages. Everyone should have a say in their lives and know how to find safety and get help. We exist to listen and connect with people everywhere; thank you for taking the time to read about the experiences of some of our community members. Watch this space for more community voices.
You can help us amplify the voices of refugees:
Contribute your own story on the TWB blog.
Written by Danielle Moore, Communications Officer at TWB/CLEAR Global Guest writers: Lilav Mohamad Alarashi and Christina Hakim, TWB Community members and translators