This Refugee Week, inspired by Counterpoints Arts, we wanted to do a small, simple act to stand with refugees. Ruth Cigman, who leads our Storytelling group, tells us more. 

In our Storytelling session with Cotton Tree members, we started discussing Refugee Week and the work of Lemn Sissay and his words on imagining.

“Everything that is around us, had to be imagined first.” He wrote a poem:

I will not limit myself
I will not be afraid
If it were not imagined
How else could it be made?

But before we could start imagining, one of our members said he didn’t like the idea of Refugee Week because he didn’t want to think of himself as a refugee for the rest of his life. This triggered a heated discussion (as usual in Cotton Tree).

A refugee is a person who is forced to leave their country and is offered protection. Gaining and achieving refugee status brings freedoms and rights but is also a difficult process.

Being a refugee is more than just a legal status. Some people feel there is a stigma attached to it. We talked about how some refugees had suggested using ‘movers’ instead. But many people felt proud to be refugees.

In the Cotton Tree, we decided not to call the people we work with, ‘clients’. We call them friends. This is a mark of the respect we have towards refugees. Many of our staff and volunteers are refugees or have refugee backgrounds. 

Some members discussed the pain associated with being a refugee. We discussed the impact of seeing atrocities in their home countries on social media, or getting terrible news from relatives abroad.

Ultimately, being a refugee isn’t a static thing, it’s a process, a journey.

Refugee Week helps remove any stigmas attached to being a refugee. It is a chance to image a different world, a world they would want to see.

I told them about Noughts and Crosses, a TV adaptation of a book by Malorie Blackman, in which black people were the elite and white people were ‘less than nothing’. What did they think about such a world?

They didn’t like it. They wanted an equal world.

We agreed that Refugee Week is about creating an equal world, and the person who didn’t like the idea of being a refugee said he had got a lot out of the discussion.

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