Thursday, October 7, 2010

May I Have the Definition, Please?

Just three short years ago, I had no idea that Austin was home to thousands of international refugees. In fact, I probably couldn't have told you what the term refugee meant. My entire understanding of the refugee story was limited to the 1986 made-for-TV movie, The Girl Who Spelled Freedom.
It's an inspiring true story of a Cambodian family who escaped the ravages of war. They are taken in by a well-to-do suburban family in middle Tennessee and struggle through language and cultural barriers, at one point preferring to sleep on the floor in a huddle than on the nice beds provided for them. Through the help of committed mentors and teachers, 10-year-old Linn Yann emerges as a prodigy, learns English quickly and goes on to compete in the national spelling bee.

That movie captivated my 8-year-old attention. I couldn't imagine the atrocities of war or having to leave my home for good. But the 8-year-old me also relished in the happy ending. "The good American family helped the good Cambodian family and now we're all done," I thought. And sadly enough, I felt "all done" in regards to the global refugee crisis until more than 20 years later. 

So, what is a refugee? In short, it's a person who has had to leave their home and can't go back. This is due to a variety of reasons, including race, religion and political affiliation. 

It looks like this.
 And this.
 And this.
 And this.
And it's happening in the world as I type. Today. 

The 8-year-old girl inside me wants to hide from these images. To be honest, the 32-year-old inside me does, too. I don't know how to solve the refugee crisis and I'm not sure why it's allowed to continue. I do know that I am a better wife, mother, friend and worker because of the people I have met and worked alongside for the past three years. And I'm honored to have friends who recognized the hurting in our community and dragged me along for the ride. 



  1. Thanks for pointing me to this Caren. Heavy stuff, but I want to know.

  2. Fantastic post, Caren.