World Refugee Day 2021: Stories told and the Memories they leave behind.
This year MAP BC focused on the stories of refugee claimants. Stories of loss and gain, stories of precious memories, personal stories and stories that describe the refugee claimant experience like looking for housing, experiencing acceptance and a new beginning. Stories are the fabric of our lives and what make other people’s experiences real for us.
Here are some excerpts from those wonderful events. Enjoy the stories and support the artists’ work on various platforms and future events.
June 15: Looking for home
The vast majority of refugee claimants start their lives in Canada in one of our shelters. Bearing the scars of their former lives and experiences they are ill-equipped to succeed among BC’s homeless. The roundtable discussion with refugee claimants, non-profit housing providers and settlement workers was a collaboration between MAP BC and the BC Non Profit Housing Association designed to highlight a typical journey for claimants and what housing providers need to know to give them a chance on a real home.
The conversation was led by Jackson Freedman, BCNPHA Policy Analyst & Doug Peat, Journey Home Community: Housing & Donor Engagement and co-chair of MAP BC Housing Working Group.
Watch the videos here:
- Journeys of two refugee claimants seeking housing. https://youtu.be/5nnA_NFGcEI
- A landlord encourages more rental accommodation for claimants. https://youtu.be/yyr53-5KMgU
Thanks to MOSAIC for producing these excellent documentary shorts.
Recent books by and about refugees have touched readers across Canada and won top literary accolades. As a country with a rich history of providing asylum to people from various parts of the globe, these stories illuminate our understanding of who we are, and increase our empathy for the lives and histories of our neighbours.
Hosted by MAP’s World Refugee Day event partner, Vancouver Public Library, moderator Jorge Amigo was joined by two writers who have helped shape our public conversations with the power of their stories:
Kim Thuy was born in 1968 in Vietnam but fled with her family with the boat people at the age of ten, eventually settling in Quebec. Her first novel, Ru, won Canada Reads in 2015. She is a Member of the Order of Canada and a chevalier of the Ordre national du Québec.
Samra Habib was born in Pakistan but fled with her family to Canada at the age of ten after facing religious persecution. She is a writer, photographer, and activist, whose writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, and The Advocate. Her first book, We Have Always Been Here, won Canada Reads in 2020.
The event was opened by Richard Belcham, MAP co-chair and the Proclamation of World Refugee Day in Vancouver by the Mayor Kennedy Stewart.
See the whole event here: The Power of Stories
June 18: Stories told and the Objects Not Forgotten – an afternoon of storytelling.
A plate of fries…A loom…A suitcase
These simple objects moved us to other lands and other times in the stories of refugees Manuel, Zong May and Maya as they described their lives before and after coming to Canada.
Over our lunches and cups of tea we met online to learn more of the reality for refugees in giving up all that is familiar and learning to start again in a new country.
Sometimes funny sometimes sad, and always heart-warming, their stories captivated the participants who were left wanting more. In conversation with Thanh Lam and Richard Belcham they answered audience questions in what was definitely an event to repeat in the future.
Hear the stories and interviews here
For an extended interview with Maya, you can hear her at the Along the Way podcast here
June 19: World Refugee Day Writing Workshop
“Anybody who has survived childhood has enough information about life to last him the rest of his days.” Flannery O’Connor
No matter where we were born or where we end up, we have this in common: we were all children once. It is during childhood, when we are most open to the world, that we experience life at its fullest. Consequently, our memories from that time become the stories we carry with us all our lives.
MAP BC partnered with the talented leaders of the Shoe Project: *Caroline Adderson and **Shanga Karim to provide refugees and newcomers a free writing workshop to set them on the path to becoming storytellers and writers.
Eight candidates joined the workshop and through guided exercises learned how to describe precious memories from their childhoods in ways that would interest their audiences.
The Shoe Project is led by women for women and provides workshops, coaching and opportunities to perform to newcomers throughout Canada. If you are interested in joining the Shoe Project visit https://theshoeproject.online/our-program#join
MAP BC also plans to support and collaborate with the Shoe Project in the future enabling more refugee women to gain storytelling skills and raise their voices.
*Caroline Adderson is the author of five novels, two collections of short stories, as well as many books for young readers. Her work has received numerous national and international awards and nominations. She is the Program Director of the Writing Studio at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity and the Vancouver mentor for the Shoe Project.
**Shanga Karim is a journalist and a women’s activist from Kurdistan. Her experiences there helped her become a storyteller here in Canada; to be a voice for other refugee and immigrant women who have a story to tell and want to find safety again in another country.
A Member of the Shoe Project for immigrant Women Shanga writes stories and performs at many different events as a female journalist who is passionate about women’s issues and their rights.
She came to Canada in 2015 as a refugee with her husband to find life, safety, and peace. Before, she thought she had a perfect life back home because of what she was doing in her career, helping and supporting women in her society, but here in Canada she has discovered that lives can never be perfect if you don’t have the freedom to achieve your goals and see your results. Shanga is studying at UFV and is a contributing member of the writing establishment.
You can hear more about Shanga’s life as interviewed on the podcast Along the Way
June 19: World Premiere of the documentary film ‘After Arrival’
MAP BC is proud to have presented the World premiere of the film ‘After Arrival”, a documentary exploring the experiences of three LGBTQIA+ community leaders who arrived in Canada as refugee claimants.
The film, directed by Gergely Toth and produced by Alexandra Dawley in partnership with MOSAIC and the Victoria Coalition for Survivors of Torture (VCST) broke new ground in the conversations it sparked in the post-film discussion with the incredible people featured in the film: Kristi Pinderi, Dennis Juarez, and Norma Lize.
The film will embark on the festival round so look out for it in your cinema or film club. In the meantime here is a preview: https://vimeo.com/530531460
To close out the evening we heard an amazing music video ‘Freedom’ from the rap star Diamo Tims who moved to Canada at the age of 16. He is a multi-talented artist, and his intention is to create awareness for LGBTQ+, All black lives matter, for People of Colour (POC) and more. He says: ‘I am here to create’.
Here is the music video ‘Freedom’.
Other information about Diamo Tims is available on his YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLNnN5F8xcH5X7AfCFPLx2Q
June 20 – UNITED: an afternoon of music and poetry for World Refugee Day
The World Refugee Day Concert has become something of a tradition at MAP – this year marked our third concert of celebrating all the art and ideas, culture and beauty that refugees bring to our communities.
Our host was Saleem Spindari who is passionate about social justice and a former refugee himself. Saleem has been active in advocating for refugees, immigrants, migrant workers and other marginalized groups, and has been Senior Manager at MOSAIC for many years. Saleem is a former MAP Co-chair. You can hear more of Saleem’s story on the Along the Way podcast.
Two very special artists from the 2020 MAP Concert returned to perform and engage in conversation with Saleem about their art and their ideas:
Rawan Moon – formerly a refugee from Syria – Rawan has been a biologist and a teacher, and here in Canada she is an Intake support worker and group Facilitator at VAST, and an interpreter at MOSAIC. Poetry is one of her favourite hobbies and her creative capacity is evident in how she voices the plight of those caught in war zones and conflicts. Rawan performed three of her poems in Arabic with translations: The Clothesline, Ten and, Soulmate and here they are in the video for you to enjoy.
You can follow Rawan on her dynamic YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzxii3F0_qetu4Rihllsw7Q and hear an in-depth interview with her at Along the Way
Also originally from Syria we welcomed back the amazingly talented violinist Sari Alesh, an internationally recognized violinist.
Sari was classically trained in Damascus and before the war broke out in Syria, he toured Europe and the Middle East with the Syrian National Symphony Orchestra. Since arriving in Canada in February of 2016, Sari has been focusing on playing music again, continually improving his English and rebuilding his life in his new country.
Sari shared three beautiful and unique pieces of music:
My Immortal – Evanescence
Ya Rayeh When Msafer – Rachid Taha
Kiss the Rain – Yiruma
You can watch Sari perform them in the video below, subscribe to Sari Alesh’s YouTube channel at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5C1vzxPTqfFLX1OQVGRqyg or hear more of his story on the Along the Way podcast.
Afshin & Sadaf Passikhani – father and daughter duet
Afshin is an Iranian refugee who moved to Canada 3 years ago. In the last three years of his life in Iran before moving to Canada he used to work for an NGO. He is still involved in environmental activities and enjoys writing poetry as well as practicing it himself. His daughter Sadaf is a high school student. She used to play and teach the Tonbak in Iran, and continues to play it as well as two other instruments, the clarinet and the piano, here in Canada. She has been a professional Tonbak player since she was 11 years old.
Together they achieve an amazing rhythmic cadence in the performance of both Afshin’s own poetry and that of one of Iran’s most famous poets: Hafez, in Farsi.
See their performances and in conversation with Saleem Spindari in the video below.
Our heart-rendering tale
The Lost Joseph (Hafez)
Hassan Al Kontar: author of ‘man@the_airport. How social media saved my life’
Last year at our World Refugee Day concert Hassan Al Kontar, in conversation with host and MAP co-chair Richard Belcham, shared that he was writing a book – this book just published in June!
Hassan returned this year to discuss his book, his life and his fond memories of the real Syria behind the conflict.
Hassan was raised in a prosperous Syrian home, the middle child of a mechanical engineer and a nurse. He is known as ‘man at the Airport’ after spending seven months at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Now a permanent resident of Canada based in Vancouver, Hassan is employed by the Canadian Red Cross and continues to advocate for refugees around the world.
Hear Hassan Al Kontar in a fascinating conversation with Saleem Spindari in the video below.
‘man@the_airport’ is published by Tidewater Press
Follow Hassan on his Youtube channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCELSj3fQrqn1MeXwaOw2NlA
Along the Way: podcast interview
MAP thanks co-chairs Jenny Lam and Richard Belcham for co-hosting the events, and the members of the Information Working Group: Angela, Heather, Michelle, Savleen, Thanh and Tracy for organizing World Refugee Day 2021.
Find out about other events including our fall In Focus season here.
*June 20 – World Refugee Day was established by the United Nations in 2001 to commemorate the 50-year anniversary of the UN Convention (1951) regarding the status of Refugees. World Refugee Day is an international day to honour refugees around the globe. It falls each year on June 20 and celebrates the strength and courage of people who have been forced to flee their home country to escape conflict or persecution.