I hope you’re all keeping safe and well guys, during this strange and difficult time with the global health pandemic. I have recently received this wonderful email about my talk/contribution to the learning of students on refugee studies. #TheLightlessSky #MyBrightKite 🪁 I wanted to share with you all.
I hope you and your family are well.
Thank you so much for the thought provoking helpful and valuable session you gave over zoom to our Refugee Care students recently – it was very well received – please see below.
Very much hope we will have the chance to meet again in the future.
All good wishes,
Zoom is an amazing tool. OnTuesday 17th March, 24 persons (including two cats) met by zoom for a PPS Open Seminar hosted by Refugee Care lecturers Zibiah Loakthar and Renos Papadopoulos. Warmly welcoming our guest speaker, Gulwali Passarlay, we came together from around the world – Colchester, London, Surrey and Cambridge, Portugal, France, Spain and Denmark to meet with Gulwali who shared his reflections about his personal experience of setting off from Afghanistan, aged twelve, on a journey to seek safety from persecution. Gulwali has written about his experiences in a book “The Lightless Sky: An Afghan Refugee Boy’s Journey of Escape to a New Life in Britain”, now translated into six languages. A couple of years ago Gulwali, together with Nola Ellen, set up the not for profit organisation “My Bright Kite”, leveraging genuine human connections to foster a culture of welcome and advocating for the wellbeing and inclusion of young refugees living in the UK, using storytelling to build compassion and empathy for the experiences of young refugees.
Nominated as a guest speaker by Refugee Care student Rhiannon Corlett, Gulwali is an engaging speaker,and connected with us all, stretching across the boundaries of zoom and inspiring us to think deeply about his simple message that people seeking refuge wish to be treated with kindness and compassion as people, as children, ad individuals and not othered as “asylum seekers”, as “refugees”.
Guwali generously shared his experiences and wisdom and responded to the many questions that followed his talk, “What messages do you want to share with children?”, “What helped you on your journey?, “How did your journey challenge your concept of masculinity?”, “How did your faith help you?”, “How did you feel when your story was published?” “What advice would you give to people, to university students, who wish to make a difference?”
Students reported finding the meeting a “privilege” to be part of, “incredibly inspiring”, “valuable” and “so helpful for connecting and understanding themes from our Refugee Care course”. One student observed “how important it is never to lose sight of the actual people we may be talking about in academia”, another on how Gulwali is a “tutor of resilience” with much learning to share with us in these current times.
We were delighted to invite to our gathering Beth Webb-Strong, an Essex student chairing the recently reestablished University of Essex’ Student Action for Refugees Group. Beth spoke about STAR’s there main activities of campaigning, volunteering and fundraising and the drive to encourage our university to open up more opportunities for students from refugee backgrounds to access our courses. STAR is a university society open to students from any disciplne and is actively seeking more volunteers to support its activities going forward and to join its committee.
To read more about Gulwali and his work please visit https://www.mybrightkite.org/ and to find out how you can get involved with University Essex STAR activities please visit https://www.essexstudent.com/society/8655/
We may be living through a period of time where we are needing to keep ourselves physically apart from each other, but this does not mean we have to be disconnected – there are virtual ways of staying connected, reaching out and building new connections. As Gulwali shared, his own book (translated into languages including German and Chinese) has found the power and potential to cross boundaries. Through our own writing and with a range of virtual tools we can each find ways to take up or continue human rights activism and make small but important differences in our world.