Angelina Jolie, Netflix and the Rohingya

So, my favourite gal ever has just released her newly directed movie-documentary ‘First they killed my father’ on Netflix. Angelina Jolie’s new film is based on the memoirs of Loung Ung and her life and escape of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. For those hearing about the Khmer Rouge genocide for the first time, know that in the space of four years, an estimated quarter of the Cambodian population were murdered, as well as many others still living with the after effects and consequences of their reign. That’s an estimated of just over 2 million people.

Cambodia Refugees

The Khmer Rouge took control of the population and enforced ideas of a farming utopia, where no one would be educated, no one had ‘foreign’ influences and everyone was ‘equal’. Their four-year plan would eventually lead to extreme famine, deaths from exhaustion and a country filled with landmines and mass graves. Anyone with skills, educations, certificate, religious backgrounds and those from ethnic minorities were prosecuted and murdered usually to a blow of the head as the Khmer Rouge had a shortage of bullets. The country had barely any doctors, lawyers, teachers or nurses, so those who were dying, had no help.

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Ung’s story

Now, I’ve read Ung’s book and cried almost all the way through it. Her story is heart-breaking and is just one of many. The Netflix movie however, is filmed from a different perspective and is only a snippet of the book. There’s minimal dialogue and could probably be a bit confusing for someone learning about the Khmer Rouge and Cambodia for the first time. I would definitely give the book a read first or do a bit of research prior to watching! At first, I wasn’t 100% sure about Jolie’s remake but once the credits rolled up, I was almost clapping. She’s an amazing woman for sharing the story and making Ung’s story known. So many people are unaware of the horrors that occurred, and it’s not something we would know about otherwise so kudos to Jolie for raising awareness about a topic so close to so many people’s hearts. Her extensive charity work and adoption of her Cambodian son, as well as his own presence and role in the making of the film goes against accusations that her ‘western’ perspective and influence on the story could be negative in any way. She uses her platform and skills to bring important matters to light. A-mazing I tell ya!

angelina-jolie-and-loung-ung

 

Cambodia today

Cambodia was one of my favourite South-East Asian countries that I’ve visited. It’s full of culture, beauty and religion but at the same time you can feel the history, pain and hurt that the country felt and still feel today. Only five people were ever bought to justice for the horrific crimes, and Cambodians continues to live alongside their executioners for years after. The Khmer Rouge’s attempt to reboot society meant that generations of people grew up learning how to fight and kill rather than to teach, heal and help. Cambodia is one of the world’s poorest countries with 30% pf the population surviving one less than $1 a day. The poverty and effects of the genocide is visible all over the country. Psychiatrists estimate that almost half the population are living with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) with 50% of babies born to survivors also developing mental health disorders although they haven’t been physically exposed to such traumas. Slanzi is right when she says that in this case “the simple passage of time does not heal everything” (Slanzi, 2013).

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The relevance today with the Rohingya refugees

Although it’s amazing and inspiring to raise the awareness and importance of the Cambodian history, it’s also extremely relevant today. The Rohingya refugee crisis is the now the fastest refugee crisis of our time with over 500,000 refugees fleeing persecution in Myanmar within the space of just over one month. UN high commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said the situation is a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” Systematic violence includes severe beatings, gang rape, mass killings and extreme sexual violence. We cannot sit back and watch this happen, learning from the Cambodia atrocities, we must do more to help people facing persecution. Ayesha, a Rohingya refugee who has now fled to Bangladesh said she was raped by twelve soldiers whilst she was held at knifepoint and her family were in the house. It took her eight days to be able to walk again. Her sisters who were also raped, were so badly weakened that they died. They’re in desperate need of aid, food and shelter as well as provisions in the camos in Bangladesh that many have fled to. Their identities have been destroyed, they live in absolute fear and the trauma that they have faced is unimaginable.

Below are some links where you can find some more information on both crisis’s as well as ways you can help and donate. Give the documentary a watch and the book a read! Let’s raise awareness and make a difference in this world 😊

 

Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge:

 

The Rohingya refugee crisis:

 

How to help:

 

Thanks for reading guys!

Vanisha

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Dreams of Tapachula

Day one in the life of a volunteer!

 

So, I’ve been in Tapachula for 24 hours now and so much has happened already including an evening stroll around the pretty city center which was filled with friendly people, a fair and churros and an emotional goodbye to my big, eventful, backpacking trip as I hopped into a taxi to Mision Mexico. Hello new adventure!

 

My journey here started in January when I was in full stress/productive mode writing my final major project at university in London whilst attempting to plan the rest of my life (and I still have no idea for those of you wondering)!

 

I’m deeply interested in education, aid, crisis, children and women’s rights, and am aiming to spend my life dedicated to the humanitarian sector. So what better way to start than by volunteering?

 

One night in my productive/stress mode, I googled ‘volunteering in Mexico’ and Mision Mexico’s Children’s organisation happened to be one of the first to pop up! And the website was in English (I speak zero Spanish even after three months of being in Spanish speaking countries!), and they were looking for volunteers! I sent an email, had a quick reply back and the rest is history! 7 months later and here I am.

 

I’ve been dreaming about this for a long time. Dreaming about volunteering, about the start of the rest of my life, and of recently, dreams of Tapachula.

 

I didn’t come with many expectations but my knowledge of Tapachula itself was that it was completely the opposite to the rich, modern city that I’d left behind. A fairly poor and typically Mexican city found on the border of Guatemala, my research told me that poverty, crime and gender inequality were all traits of the area (tiny butterflies in my tummy as a criminology and sociology graduate!) but, so far so good! It’s all quite charming including the people!

Pulling up to the grande casa verde was nerve-wracking! This is it. Here I am. Dreams becoming a reality!

 

I was shown up to my room which is in a separate volunteers house and has its own living space, kitchen, bathroom and balcony! Again, I was pleasantly surprised because I have my own bedroom with furniture and places to put my clothes, and my own fan. All huge luxuries after backpacking! Mision Mexico is full of colour, big palm-like trees and there’s even a volcano in the distance!

 

Everyone was so friendly and gave me space to chill. Good job regarding the lunch that followed a few hours later was filled with heaps of cheeky introductions, lots of little happy faces and many, many new names! Definitely a good way to start the next part of my life!

 

Keep with the adventures here on Instagram @misionmexicovolunteers and @vanishamay and keep your eyes peeled for many more blogs to come!

 

For all those interested in volunteering please don’t hesitate to ask further. Please apply at volunteers@lovelifehope.com. We’re in need of volunteers throughout October-December 2017. Must be over 21 and willing to commit for 6 weeks minimum.

 

Thanks for reading!

Vanisha

 

Mision Mexico,

Tapachula,

Mexico,

http://www.lovelifehope.com

https://www.facebook.com/MisionMexicoChildren/

Photograph credits to previous volunteers at Mision Mexico**