In 2013, there are more refugees than every before in history. 18 million individuals who have been forced to flee their homes, leaving everything behind. 18 million individuals who have walked away from their homes, schools, communities, families and everything they’ve ever known. 18 million people who have walked for weeks on end without knowing whether they will live another day. 18 million scared but courageous individuals whose lives will never be the same.
This World Refugee Day, the UNHCR is challenging us by asking, if you had just one minute to flee, what would you take?
This post collects responses to that question from Bond students. Feel free to post in the comments and let us know what item would be essential to your survival. Please also have a look at the UNHCR website which documents the item refugees around the world chose to take.
If I was forced to flee and could only take one item with me, I would take the blanket my Nan knitted me when I was a baby. She knitted the McDonald tartan, which symbolises my family and would be a reminder of all the important people in my life. Blankets are synonymous with comfort, protecting us from darkness and nightmares and keeping us warm. I have no doubt that on the long and dangerous road to refuge, there will be many times where I would be close to giving up and weary with the trauma of conflict – and this blanket, which reminds me of so many happy times growing up, will give me the strength to push on.
On a practical level, a blanket is extremely versatile. It is light, packs up small and easy to carry. I would use it to:
- Keep me warm at night
- Shelter from the sun
- When damp, it could be used to cool off
- Protection from mosquitos and other nasties
- Carrying things on my back that become too heavy
- A pillow
- A ground sheet to cushion rocks, prickles and the cold from the ground
- Bits could be ripped up to use for bandages
- Huddle under with other people who did not have the chance to take anything
- Inspiration to get to safety, to do it for the people I love and for the ones that didn’t get the opportunity to flee.
This is a question I have asked myself before. At 11 years old, my father gave me a backpack and asked me to fill it with my most important possessions for our journey. “This is how much space you have,” he said “choose wisely.” I brought my favorite book, a journal filled with kind goodbyes from my friends, and my favorite clothes.
As an adult, my choice wouldn’t change. I would bring my strongest shoes and warmest clothes to protect my outer and my favorite book to protect my inner. To remind myself that strength exists within and one day I would see the green light again.
I will take my family album.
Remembrance: the album will help remind me of the family members I may have lost during the war.
Courage to go on: it will give me the courage to go on in life for the sake of my family particularly for those who may still be alive.
Search for family: in times of war, everyone gets separated and the album will come in handy when I go to refugee camps. I can show the pictures of my family members to people in the camps in case someone has seen or recognises them in the camps.
I would take a photograph of my parents to remind me each day of everything that they have done for me in my lifetime. This would give me the strength to keep on going, especially because it would serve as a constant reminder that I have their support no matter what. Emotional strength is one of the most powerful aspects of humanity and to know that you have people who care about your safety and wellbeing is inspiring in even the most difficult of circumstances.
A case of Pepsi – Why?
1. Nourishment – 24 cans of sweet fructose syrup and caffeine will ensure that I am energised, alert and hydrated.
2. Cultural Assimilation – Pakistan hosts more refugees than any other country in the world (almost 2 million). Therefore, if I were a refugee, I would be statistically most likely to end up in Pakistan. It is a little known fact that Pakistan is one of the few places in the world where Pepsi outsells Coca-Cola.
3. Safety – An aluminium can has many uses; as a reflector, a makeshift stove or as a weapon to fend off wild animals.
Ashleigh Peplow Ball
If I was faced with the same situation 2000 Syrian nationals are everyday, where I need to leave my home, community and country to find safety, I would bring my wallet.
My wallet has multiple forms of identification which would become essential if entering a refugee camp or when trying to seek asylum overseas. Further, my wallet would have some money in it, which I could use to purchase food and water on my journey.
Finally, my wallet has a photo of my family inside which I would need if I am trying to find them, and as support and comfort.
If forced to flee, I would take a lighter. No doubt, when fleeing conflict there would be a requirement to sleep outside, or inside a structure not well insulated. Consequently, a lighter provides a means to always start a fire. It would be more reliable than a box of matches, as a box of matches would become relatively useless if it became wet.
Most materials, whether naturally occurring things in the environment (like firewood), or manmade products, are likely flammable to some degree. Therefore, because of the warmth and ability to utilise a fire to cook, a lighter would be useful when fleeing a particular danger.
If I were forced to flee, I would take my Mum with me. She’s an incredible woman; she keeps me grounded when life gets hectic, and safe when life gets hard. I know that if I were forced to flee, she would be there to make sure I always kept my chin up, and to remind me of who I am. She’s my rock of support, and I know even in the hardest of times I can look to her for advice, counsel, love, wisdom and strength. That’s why I would make sure she would be with me if we had to flee.
If I were forced to flee, the one thing I would take is a camera. I would take pictures of the terrible experiences many refugees must live through, to show the strength of the human spirit. Hopefully these pictures could be used to raise awareness and create international attention on whatever terror I was forced to flee.