When a refugee goes home.

When it comes to refugees we usually think of them leaving their country. How often do we consider the day they will return home?

Living as a refugee in a foreign land is not easy. When refugees are forced to leave their homelands as a result of a crisis, they receive absolutely no preparation or training to face the transition ahead or deal with the traumatic and sorrowful events they have experienced.

Settling into a new environment as a refugee is a slow, chaotic and painful experience.

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Allan and Jenny* who work with refugees explain:

“Not being able to live around one’s relatives often means a deep sense of loneliness and a longing to be reunited with elderly parents.

There is constant financial pressure from needing to pay rent and meet daily needs despite not having the same rights to work with fair wages as native citizens.

For refugees, future opportunities are very limited with no hope for change leaving them dependent on financial aid to survive or requiring them to work illegally (without a work permit), often meaning a salary below the minimum wage.”

Despite these pressures, after several years of living as a refugee, most have in some sense become accustomed to life in their host country. The younger generation have either grown up or been born in the host country.

*Not their real names

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For them their parent’s homeland is an unfamiliar country. When

the time comes, the experience of transitioning back to a homeland that

doesn’t feel like home, can be a difficult process.

Allan and Jenny asked themselves how they could help children with this transition. “How could we help make the children’s return home a different, more positive experience?” The answer was to help them prepare for the transition by developing a course designed for this purpose.

  • Their course focuses on a handful of psychological needs: Review and closure
  • dealing with anxiety and saying goodbye well,
  • adjusting to a new environment,
  • the grieving process and new beginnings.

Because the situation in the refugees’ homeland remains unstable the level of anxiety they experience before actually travelling, increases.

Giving them tools to better handle anxiety is very important.

Allan and Jenny made four videos, with each story having the same two main characters – Ali, a 12 year-old boy and Rima, a 10 year-old girl. Through their story the refugee children are able to learn some techniques to deal with their own physical and emotional issues.

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“We start the program with children singing worship songs with actions. Children love the songs, and it livens up the atmosphere.

The songs remind them of the wonderful and loving God we have, and that His love for us is firm and will not change.

During the time of transition, their care givers may become weak or may not able to be with them, but God will never leave His little one when he needs Him.”

After watching each video there is time for questions and the children share their own experiences. Then there are worksheets to fill in so the participants are able to review the lesson and reflect on their past experiences.

“We always end with a game or handcrafts. We want to give them good, positive memories that focus on respect and love as their time as a refugee comes to an end.

There are many opportunities to visit them in their homes to show them Christ’s love and to get to know their parents.

Farewells are not a pleasant feeling for many of us, but saying goodbye well will encourage them and send them off with a sweet memory and the ability to have a good start”.