Thankyou to all who supported A Country of Refuge and have gone on to pledge for A Country to Call Home. It is much appreciated and I really hope we can reach the target in the next few weeks in order to be able to publish the book early next year, in time for Refugee Week 2018. It's a long process because I have to reach the target before I can formally commission the authors.
I wanted to share with you some of the reasons I feel so passionately about the plight of refugees and asylum seekers. Since 2010 I have been a volunteer mentor with Write to Life, the creative writing group of Freedom from Torture, helping survivors of torture to express themselves through words.
We meet fortnightly and share a simple meal. Each mentor takes it in turn to run a two-hour creative writing workshop, exploring a specific subject or writing technique. I also mentor two members of the group, meeting them privately every fortnight to help them polish their writing, work on any grammatical issues, and craft their creative thoughts into poems, stories and reportage.
The cathartic effects of writing are well known and the group bond through sharing their stories. We hear about the pain of leaving behind loved ones and the struggles of building a new life. Many refugees are dealing with unimaginable loneliness. Some have been forced to leave their children behind, some are coping with bereavement, some have lost their entire family. Many forge new lives for themselves but the relentless struggle to assimilate takes its toll. Few are able to practise their original occupations – teachers, academics, writers, lawyers, journalists, accountants. Writing about their lives helps them process past trauma, but also offers them hope for the future.
Often, members of the group go on to become ambassadors for Freedom from Torture, presenting their work at various events across the country. For me one of the most heart-warming moments is to see a member of the group regain their voice and the confidence to read from their work in public in a language not their own.
Last year, Unbound published A Country of Refuge. We launched during Refugee Week 2016 and have had a great response. One reader, Michaela Fyson, bought 650 copies to give to MPs and the University of Hertfordshire offered free copies to their first year students.
I’m aiming to reach new audiences with this follow up anthology of writing about refugees and asylum seekers. A Country to Call Home will include stories, flash fiction, poetry and original artwork focusing on the experiences of child refugees, and will feature some of our finest children’s writers. The fate and vulnerability of refugee children and young adults continue to be vital issues and the book is intended as a positive reminder of our shared humanity.
We are off to a promising start but still have a long way to go. Please spread the word and encourage your local schools to pledge for library copies or perhaps consider donating a copy to your children's school – there is a special pledging level for this. My dream is that the book widely will be read in schools, maybe even put on the national curriculum, in the hope that younger generations will have a kinder response to refugees and asylum seekers and better understand why people are forced to flee their native countries.
Let’s not forget: Over half of the world’s refugees are children.
Thankyou for reading and thanks again for your support.
Extracts from this blog have been published by Freedom from Torture.
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