Today I’m proud to share a guest post from a new friend Pam, who chronicles her travels on her website, Spunky Girl Monologues. Pam has gone out of her way to get involved in the short time she had to spend in Bangkok (read about her first encounter with urban refugees here). Here’s what she wrote after some heavy thinking about all she encountered in her efforts.
2 hours seems like such a small amount of time. It’s the amount of time we spend watching our favorite movie, or relaxing with friends at a favorite restaurant or pub. It’s a fraction of our day and we treat it as such. After all, it’s 2 hours. No big deal there, right?
During my 6 weeks in Thailand, three of which were spent in Bangkok, I learned the meaning of 2 hours. 2 hours was the amount of time it took me to see the struggles of refugee and asylum-seeking families. It was the amount of time it took for my heart to break 10 times over. It was the amount of time it took for my views and perceptions about Bangkok to change. It is the amount of time it took for me to decide that I need to reach out and help more than I have been.
There are a few thousand people in Bangkok who are refugees or seeking asylum from non neighboring countries. Refugees and asylum-seekers cannot work, which means they cannot earn money to support their families. That means that at any time there are hundreds of hungry bellies and innumerable worries and fears. People are hiding in their ‘homes’ and praying that the Thai police don’t find them and throw them into the IDC (Immigration Detention Center) where there is no release date in sight. They are sleep deprived because of the fear the these raids. Their children do not go to school or play outside with friends. They can rarely say with any certainty where their next meal will come from.
So, why are they in Thailand? They came to Thailand because it’s safer than their home country. In Thailand they fear being put into the crowded detention center’s jail, however, they do not fear being killed. Thus, Thailand becomes their perdition before having the chance at starting a new life in another country willing to accept refugees. Unfortunately, the process of receiving refugee status in Thailand is long and frustrating. Once they have refugee status, which can take as long as 2 years or more to obtain, it could be another 2 years before they are sent to a new country. We’re talking a miserable four years in the most optimistic cases. That is a long time to try and survive without being able to earn money. It’s 1,460 days of living one day at a time. It’s eating when you can and paying rent before feeding yourself and your family. It’s endless days of praying that someone will find you and help you.
In the time I spent with refugee and asylum-seeking families I had a hard time wrapping my head around their reality. How do they do it? I’m amazed by their faith and their resilience, but what choice do they have?