Finding home.

 

This year, I’ve found it challenging to define the word ‘home’. After travelling year upon year, with endless amounts of moves, I couldn’t be further from finding ‘my place in the world’.

The last five months, I’ve been living back in my hometown. And most people in the small town that I grew up in have lived in the same four walls for all their lives. I’ve had a total of 6 addresses just in that town alone. On top of that, I’ve spent a year of my life from my backpack travelling Asia, South America and unpacking my bag for a few months in China and Mexico. And more recently, I made my move to London where I stayed for 3 years under 3 more different addresses. And now I’m back ‘home’ but I’ve never felt so unsettled. *update I’m now back in China where I’ve semi-settled, found a new place, have a daily route to work and now have another home address. Deep breath*

So, in my head (and to you), I’ve been trying to work out what and where ‘home’ is. What does home really mean? Have I come home? Do I have to build a home in just one place? Is home even a building? Is it a place? Is it a feeling? Or a person? (I know, cliché). Where is my place in the world and why am I struggling so hard to find it?

And you’re probably thinking why it’s so important. What on earth is she talking about now?! But seriously (when I was writing this over the Christmas period when families are supposedly all gathering in their ‘homes’ to spread joy and festive love) I couldn’t help but wonder that this word that people find so much comfort in, this word that’s meant to mean everything, the word we go to when we’re lost or run to for safety. What if someone doesn’t have this word? What do they have? Where do we go? I’m doing all the running, in fact I constantly have one foot out the door, why can I not just bloody settle? *and these thoughts caused me so much anxiety at the time I started this blog but it’s always in the back of my mind as I travel and try to find new places to be. The idea of being ‘lost’ and the pressures to ‘find your place’ can be overwhelming ok. Hence my brain going into overdrive*

Perhaps it’s because in my hometown I feel surrounded by ghosts of people that I left in my past, and memories that I don’t want to revisit, and versions of me that I don’t want to remember. My hometown will never feel like a home for me. And I think that’s the same for lots of people. You never know what people have to go home to. Home isn’t always a happy place. It’s not always safety or comforting. Home can be something we run from.

Or perhaps it’s because I’ve travelled and moved too much. Maybe settling will never be an option for me and that might be okay. I can’t think of one place that I’d want to spend even 5 years yet alone my life. Maybe I just haven’t found the right ‘home’ yet.

Or maybe it’s because home is a feeling. A few months after I started writing this and I’m in a strange place of between. But I’ve come to more of a conclusion now and feel a lot less anxiety lol. Home is a feeling. A feeling of familiarity, comfort and safety. A few months ago, I thought my childhood and choices in life meant I’d always have the feeling of instability and lack of safety, but, it might not be so bad. Maybe I’m still hunting for my ‘home’, someone to share this beautiful life with and he’ll remind me it’s not the about destination “it’s about the journey Vin”, he’ll say as he commits to a lifetime of journey-ing around the world with me…

Right now, for me, I feel at home in many countries, with many people. I walk around my new city in China and feel familiarity and warmth in people, like the last time I was here was four days ago and not four years. Every day I look forward to the day I’ll fly back to Mexico, the home of Mision Mexico and the people whose lives are still joined with mine. It’s the feeling after a Skype session with my loved ones then seeing them and hugging them after months of being apart. I’ve been on the run around the world leaving parts of myself everywhere. And now, my place in the world is all over the world and that is such a blessing. My home is in me and in my people.

Some food for thought and it’s a good watch!

Ever felt lost or need a chat? Give me a shout!

Have a fab day and follow my IG adventures @vanishamay

V

X

p.s miss you kiss you huns and fam ♥️

Mental health and me: bringing back my power.

Part Two

“It’s interesting to note that the most kind and courageous souls you meet in life tend to be those who’ve faced the most cruelty and conflict. This vicious world might sharpen us like a blade, but whether we use that power to protect people or cause them pain is always our choice.”  

Beau Taplin

I’ve always been quite aware of my thoughts, feelings and actions. I think about everything, I analyse all situations and I pick apart everything I come across. Sometimes this is a curse, but mostly I’m thankful AF for this mind. I read, I research, I feel and I’m present. But a month ago, I tripped and my mind took a turn and fell into a black hole. I was not present. I read only bad things, tortured myself with negative thoughts and filled my days with unhealthy behaviour. Not good times.

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I read this blog that expressed how anxiety, depression and self-esteem was all an effect of the sick people in our infected society. It said how depression is not a fault of the individual. That probably, and more possibly, it was “all the crap and ideas I’d internalised from other people” which has most definitely been built up over a long period of time. That this didn’t happen overnight, and it wasn’t just over the last guy who left me in disappointment. But instead this was a build-up of years and heaps of moments of multiple disappointments and sadness and hurt and negativity from my experiences and those around me. I found myself thinking over situations that happened three months ago, and thirteen years ago. Which kinda made sense.

It’s quite possible that although we’re talking about mental health more than ever, it’s also a huge sign that something is going wrong with our lifestyles, the way we live and the kind of people we are becoming.  

“We do not come alone to the idea of being worthless, useless, and that we deserve to suffer…It’s a thing about mental health that needs saying and saying again. Most of us do not fall apart on our own. We fall apart for reasons that are outside our heads. Trying to find a personal solution to this is often futile. If environments are sick, the people in them will become and remain sick. Where people exploit each other, treat each other as worthless, expendable, or mock visible suffering, things only get worse.” – https://druidlife.wordpress.com/2017/07/21/anxiety-depression-and-self-esteem/ 

 

However, there is another side to this. And although we do not fall apart on our own, we do decide how long we stay in pieces, we decide what kind of people we want to be and we decide whether we want make our lives and this world a worse or better place. Yes, maybe if people were kinder to each other than we wouldn’t ever feel so worthless. If people acted with more love and understanding rather than their selfishness and ego then perhaps the world would work differently.

But, unfortunately, that’s the world we live in. People are selfish and unforgivable at times. People are not afraid to cause pain if it’s for their own benefit. The world is filled with good people, and absolute horrors. What should be done? We can blame, we can attack or we can understand that although their behaviour is like a poison, they’re minds are probably full of anger, hurt and lack of love, life and empathy. And that’s actually more of a representation on society. And that’s actually quite sad.

Will people disappoint? Yes, it’s bound to happen over and over again. Is this fair? No, of course not, but does the behaviour say more about them than you? Yes, of course.  So, how will my situation change? By myself.

Nikita Gill

I cannot change the way people behave. I cannot change what’s happened in the past. And I cannot change how sick the people in these unfortunate environments may be. But I can change my impact. I can change how I react to these behaviours. I can learn from my past. I can remove myself from these people and I can change my environment.

Two months ago, my mind played on repeat all the times that I felt hurt, along with all the people who caused me even the slightest bit of pain, but now my thoughts have changed to how grateful I am that I am able to see and be different to them. Something went so wrong in their lives (and not always by fault of their own), that they’ve forgotten parts of their humanity and now think it’s somewhat acceptable to treat another human being in an immoral way. I’m grateful that the pain in my life has filled my heart with flowers and not stone, unlike them. Since, my last blog ‘Mental health and me‘, I feel all sorts of power. I see a tunnel which is filled with light, hope and love.

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“Hurt people hurt people. That’s how pain patterns gets passed on, generation after generation after generation. Break the chain today. Meet anger with sympathy, contempt with compassion, cruelty with kindness. Greet grimaces with smiles. Forgive and forget about finding fault. Love is the weapon of the future.” – I love this.

Although our environments may be filled with sick people, and life won’t always seem fair, we can ultimately choose two sides. To be like them, or to be better. I choose love. I choose kindness and I choose to be nothing like them. Our hearts and minds are different, and I choose to bring more good to this world than bad. How can this world possibly have more bad in it?! It’s easy to hate, and it’s easy to feel full of hate. It’s not so easy to work on peace every single day, but it’s possible. Fight for that everyday. We can decide who we want to be. We can be the good in our environments and impact this world and our lives in ways that some will never be able to. And this has helped my mental health. And this brings me back my purpose and peace. And this brings me back my power.  

🖤

Let’s choose to be the kinder ones, the more understanding and the more loving. A mantra that still applies.

Vanisha

X

 

Follow me on insta >> https://www.instagram.com/vanishamay/?hl=en

Mental health and me.

Part One

Love me when i least deserve it, because that’s when i need it the most – unknown

It’s taken me months to come to terms with my life and who I am right now, and it’s taken weeks to write this in a way that I’m okay with.

Topics, awareness and conversation about mental illness and mental health have been slowly, but more positively, making its way into our minds, out of our mouths and spreading through the veins of our society. But growing up knowing words like ‘anxiety’ and ‘depression’ didn’t always mean they were fully understood. Although it seems we are now surrounded by our friends, family, strangers and celebs all fighting daily battles with their mental health, the battle can be easily misunderstood and still feel confusing. My experience with mental health has been messy, dark, confusing and not always something I wanted to accept. And that wasn’t even my own mental health. It’s hard to understand something that hurts, and with mental health you can hurt, and other people can hurt as a cause of your hurt. Now, as I battle my own issues, I’m understanding it more than ever.

Six months ago, I was extremely happy with myself, I was acing university, following my passion, keeping fit and healthy, living independently, working hard, and I had exciting plans and hopes for my future. Everything was great. I was the best I had ever been in my life in every way possible. Until one day, I just wasn’t.

I used to think happiness and positivity and depression and negativity were like a switch that you could turn on and off. And the use of the switch would depend on how hard you wanted it and how hard you tried. With mental health, I’ve found that it’s partly true. Except the switch is one of them stupid ones that flick back on as you leave the room and you have to go back to turn it off again but it’s constant and lasts through the night and into some days and you have no control over the stupid damaged switch. Life becomes a constant battle with the switch that never used to even cross my mind before because it was never an issue and would almost always be on happy positivity mode.

Some days feel the same as six months ago. I can still fill my days with positivity and people comment on how much I smile and brighten their day. Some days I see hope for my future and am inspired by all the good in the world, and all the good left for me to make. Some days I feel happiness because I know that one day I’ll be exactly where I want to be, doing exactly what I love with someone who loves me just as much as I love them. And I won’t question or doubt anything about myself or my life because everything will be good enough.

But some days it’s hard to even fake a smile. Some days I feel so far from who I even used to be, yet alone from where I hope I’ll ever be. Some days I can’t believe how much pain has been in my life and how people keep finding new ways to hurt me. Yet alone all those hurting other people, all those other people suffering. Some days I can’t imagine working with people in crisis because how can life and the people in our world be so cruel to ever put another human in that point of crisis in the first place? Some days my brain drives me crazy. I lose complete focus, worth and love for myself and the world. Nothing ever seems good enough.

I’ve read articles after blogs after websites about how to cope, what to do, what not to do and what depression and anxiety even are. There’s poetry and quotes and helplines and chatrooms. People tell you to exercise, get out the house, talk to someone, get a good night sleep. Lol. And for those who know me and follow my IG and blogs on the reg, you’ll be laughing along with me. I’ve gone from one extreme to the other. Here I am, little miss positivity, spreading sunshine and love around the world and trying to save the planet, feeling the most negative ever and trying hard not to hate everything around me.

And it’s funny when people comment how you’re coping so well, like you could never tell that I was even remotely low, like how my IG looks like life goals and how it appears I’m the same person from six months ago. Because mental illness isn’t visible through a photo unless you post a picture of yourself crying in bed with the caption ‘btw i’m depressed’. And it goes to show how you never know what battle someone might be fighting.

 

My “choose happiness” and “be a seeker of everyday magic” mantra is just not so relevant right now. Sure, if you’re having a bad day it might help. But depression doesn’t seem like a bad day because depression doesn’t seem to leave. Instead, you might have good moments in your bad day. Or your day might not be particularly awful, but there are no feelings of happiness like you knew it before.

I know things will get better. And like everything in life, this is temporary. But for now, I’m learning and finding my own ways to cope through it. I’m trying to find peace, worth and love for myself. I am healing from the pain, trauma and sadness in my life. For the first time in months, I’m starting to accept these feelings and thoughts. And that it’s normal. And that it’s okay. I’m very slowly remembering the things that make me happy and trying to remind myself who I am. And even writing this, I feel relief to be talking about it. And although I’m quite used to blogging and being honest and open with what I write about, mental illness is a new topic for me. Today I’m raising awareness about my newest fight in life; mental health.

Know that mental illness is serious and varies and has tonnes of different symptoms and effects for different lengths of time and on different scales of severity. It’s a huge problem in our society with millions of sufferers. It is always important to talk about it. Self-love and self-care are important too. And realising you’re not alone and that you can recover from this is important to remember also. If you don’t have it, you’ll know someone that has it, or you’ll soon have it, or you have had it.

 

Let’s be kinder, more understanding and more loving. A mantra that can always be applied.

Vanisha

X

IG: https://www.instagram.com/vanishamay/?hl=en

25 things I’ve learned in 25 years

So, while you’re all sleeping, or partying or whatever it is you get up to on a Friday night, I’ll be turning 25 (yay!?). And although it seems like I’ve truly hit my quarter-life-crisis stage, there’s no denying that I have had a wild and very interesting 25 years so far!

 

From moving countries, to graduating with a first and realising my passions, to living by myself, and volunteering around the world, to passing my driving test, and experiencing so much of the planet and the people on it. I’ve had such amazing highlights considering the first few years I was in nappies!

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But of course, there have been not-so-fun times like bad jobs, bad travel experiences, a sad childhood and meeting a good handful of bad people! So, after 25 years of living, walking and talking, here are my 25 things I’ve learned in 25 years…

 

  1. Fortunes favours the bold and the brave

Doing things that scare you will benefit you. Netflix and chill is great but you’ll have nothing to look back on if you just sit indoors doing the same old. Do something that scares you once in a while. My best experiences have been my biggest life changes, they were risky, scary and completely new to me, but they changed my life for the good. Take that risk. Be bold. Be brave.

  1. On love…

5 things under my life lessons on boys… (and I’m still learning, and I could go on!) 1. Actions speak louder than words. If he says he likes you but only makes the effort to see you once a month on a night-out, then get rid and do better. 2. Love doesn’t last forever and neither do the sad times. 3. Find someone who loves your mind just as much as they love your body. 4. Most boys aren’t worth your tears. Learn to let go and realise when things aren’t meant to be. Don’t text back and don’t text him. There’s better to come! 5. Always have hope. I’ve had my fair share of absolute jokers, but I do believe (just about!) that there is such a thing as a good, and single man. Wherever he might be.

 

  1. Be an enthusiast!

There were a few times I doubted how much I loved everything but talks with my best friend made me realise how special it is that we just love everything! The littlest things make me so happy and it takes a lot to bring me down or make me even slightly sad. Being negative and hating everything isn’t cool and actually affects your outlook on life. Life is full of exciting things! Live positively. Celebrate it. And don’t be afraid to show it.

 

  1. Travel

The world is an incredible place full of beauty and wonder and non-stop exploring. I’ve had no regrets about spending most of my adult life savings and spending time on travelling. It opens your mind, heart and life to life-changing experiences and people. Travel is always a clever idea.

  1. Trust yourself and your abilities.

When I was at school, I never thought I was smart enough or capable of going to university or even doing A-Levels. So, I didn’t until 4 years later when I was braver and more hopeful. And I graduated with a first-class honours degree with 3 years of high marks and good assignments. Trust yourself more. You are capable, and you can do almost anything if you just put your mind to it.

  1. Always be grateful.

We are extremely fortunate for the lives we have. If you’re reading this, that means you too. Cherish it all, the ups, the downs, the bad and the good. Life is an absolute gift.

 

  1. Be open to anything

Live life with open arms, an open mind and an open heart. Just because something is new, doesn’t mean it’s dangerous or bad. Just because you’ve been hurt before, doesn’t mean you’ll get hurt again. Be open to the unknown, you’ll miss out otherwise!

 

  1. Giving is better than receiving

“True compassion lies in what you can do for someone else” (Olivia Benjamin). You never know the impact you might make on somebody and their life. There’s always room to give and ways to give. You can give your time, spare change or a smile. Knowing that I can help people and give my love and life to them in so many different ways, brings me an abundance of happiness and purpose.

  1. Love

Life is all about love. The times I had the least love and gave out the least love were my unhappiest times. So, learn to love yourself, love this life and seriously, ‘love thy neighbour’. We all need love and the world needs more of it!

 

  1. Be kind always

People appreciate my kindness. And I remember when people are kind to me too. It makes a huge difference to a soul, to receive kindness, no matter how undeserving that soul might be. I’m leaving this now to Roy…

 

“A random act of kindness, no matter how small, can make a tremendous impact on someone else’s life.”

 

“Treat everyone with politeness and kindness, not because they are nice, but because you are.”

 

“Be the reason someone smiles. Be the reason someone feels loved and believes in the goodness in people.”
― Roy T. BennettThe Light in the Heart

 

  1. The importance of following your dreams/ doing things that matter

Find your passion and fully go for it. Finding your purpose and doing something that matters with your life is the best feeling ever. Even if it could take years to fully achieve that dream, it’s so good to know that you’re on the right path. I’m fortunate to have a dream that could really make a difference to the world and to have the opportunities to pursue it. Never give that up.

  1. Have patience

Patience truly is a virtue. There’s going to be times in life where you want to lash out or where you have little time for the person in the queue in front of you, but being patient is one of my best learnt attributes and has helped me so much in life. Luckily, it takes a lot to test my patience and because of that, I can put up with an awful lot without it affecting me!

 

  1. Be good to you

Mentally, physically and emotionally. Be good to your mind and your body. And if things aren’t okay, that’s okay too. It’s okay to be sad and down in the dumps sometimes. Relax. Stop and take time for yourself. I definitely learned that one this year!

 

  1. You are who your friends are

Every friend brings something different to your life. I’ve recently learned that. I’ve got a great bunch of gals that really bring out the best in me and make me realise what’s important, and who I am. If you don’t have good friends, then bun them and go make some better ones. Good friends are good for the soul.

 

  1. Educate yourself at every opportunity

“Everyone knows something that you don’t” and whether you’re 7, 25 or 89, there will always be something to learn about. Education changes lives and minds over and over again. For westerners reading this, it may seem trivial, but my education is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I’m so blessed to know all that I do even if my maths skills are still pretty shocking.

 

  1. Quit

I spent almost two years in a job that I hated every single day. My biggest lesson from that was that I should have quit. Hate your job? Quit. Don’t like where you live? Move. Not happy with life? Change. Unhappy in love? Leave. Things change, feelings change, and life goes on. That includes yours. It’s okay to quit if it’s not right.

 

  1. Be curious and ask questions

You’ll never know unless you ask! And never be afraid to ask. Asking questions expands your mind, gives knowledge and gives power. Ask that guy for his number, ask your mum for help and ask for a bigger promotion. Just ask.

 

  1. Being authentic

Social media is a small snippet of highlights in people’s lives and the example I’m gonna use for now. Don’t compare, don’t feel pressure and be true to you always. Trickier today with the role of social media etc, but a big lesson I’ve learned is that it’s okay to admire other people, however, they are not you and you are not them. And you are amazing so just stick with you.

  1. Read more books

There’s an endless amount of knowledge and excitement that comes from sheets of paper. I barely read until about five years ago and some of the books that I’ve read since have made me laugh, cry, hope and change the way I think completely. Seriously, go to the library or click on amazon and get a book today.

 

  1. Unplug and switch off

Put your phone down and look at the world around. Or read a book. Or have a real conversation. It’s so easy to get hooked on our electronics that sometimes we miss what’s happening around us. Scrolling through Instagram all night won’t improve your life. Go get inspired.

 

  1. Work hard

It’s good for your employer, it’s good for you and it’s good for your bank account. If you hate your job and you cba every day, then quit. Go find a job that you love then work hard at that. And stay humble about it too.

 

  1. It’s okay to say no/ stop saying sorry

I’ve learned to say, “thank you so much for waiting” rather than “sorry I kept you for so long” because there’s just no need to apologise for every little hiccup in my life. Plus, I’m not always sorry! Similarly, I’ve learned to say no more often. Not because I’m a mean person, but because it’s okay to not say yes and do everything all the time for everyone. In fact, I could probably say no more!

 

  1. Be as wild as you want, but be wild

Life is short. Tell your loved ones you love them often. Go skinny dipping in the Philippines. Order that double cheeseburger. And jump out of that bloody plane. I know too many people who regret the things they haven’t done in life. I have no regrets, I’ve done everything I’ve wanted so far and intend to carry on that way. Dare to be wild. YOLO.

 

  1. Be conscious

Before you speak, before you buy, before you do lots of things, ask yourself; will this improve my life? Will this benefit others? Think of the planet, consider people’s feelings and think of the consequences of your actions. I could definitely improve some things in my life still, but I hope I leave a more positive mark on the planet than a negative one!

 

  1. Smile! And be happy

Do whatever it takes to live a life that you’re proud of. Do things that make you happy. And if you find that you’re not happy, change it. And always smile. Smile for your exes, smile to a stranger, and smile because you’re alive.

Thanks for reading as always guys! My blog is another big achievement and something I used to be scared about, but I love writing and I love you all for reading it!

So, thank you!

Vanisha

X

 

Follow me on instagram @vanishamay

Mexico: Día De Los Muertos. Spooky or spectacular? 

Dia De Los Meurtos (or Day of the Dead) is known worldwide as the one of the biggest celebrations of the dead. Festivals, food, flowers and a tonne of skulls and make-up turn the taboo subject of death as we know it in the West into a fun, colourful and completely opposite method of dealing with loss. But is the traditional celebration spectacular or just plain spooky? This year with the children at Mision Mexico, we’ll find out!

 

Four fun facts that you didn’t know about Día de los Muertos:

  1. Día de los Muertos is celebrated on the 1st and 2nd November, not on 31st October! Although the theme is death and it’s closely celebrated near Halloween, the traditions and customs are extremely different. Mexicans create altars (la ofrenda) in their homes and cemeteries to invite their lost ones back down to earth for a huge celebration of their lives! There’s no mourning, fear or sadness, just love, joy and laughter! This is incredibly important for our children also and a lovely way to help with trauma and loss.
  2. Who knows what the food is like in Heaven? Just in case the departed might be missing out on their favourite meals, families make sure to provide heaps of food, drinks and all their loved ones’ favourite things as an offering. It’s also believed that the food will help with the tiredness of travelling from the heavens and back. Pan de meurto and pan dulce (bread of the dead and sweet bread) is usually offered along with atole (sweet porridge) and sugar skulls.
  3. Cemeteries are filled with families, flowers and candles which sounds similar to ours in the west, but you’ll find the atmosphere and behaviour to be in extreme contrast. Children run around playing and families laugh as they share fond memories together. People are at one with death. Life and death come together in the most colourful and uplifting way.
  4. As well as being a fun activity for the day (for the kids and us!), the popular sugar skull face painting has real meaning behind it. Calaveras and Careinas were originally worn and painted on to warn off death. And the holiday itself is an indigenous tradition and recognised by UNESCO.

 

At Mision Mexico, we encourage and celebrate these important traditions and celebrations. “Our altar is still up, and every morning the kids light the candles and have a moment to think about those who have passed. They also spend the day trying to set fire to sticks and paper, but I’m pretty sure that’s not a countrywide tradition!” – Melissa, Fundraising and Events Manager

 

So, spooky or spectacular? I think… Spectacular! How incredible and beautiful to be so at peace with one of the most natural things on the planet. It’s perfect for family time and bringing each other closer to celebrate and remember those we once walked the earth with. And also, a magical time to visit the spectacular country of Mexico!

 

Interested in the dead like I am?

Read my blog about living with the dead in Indonesia. Another fascinating but amazing way of coping with loss and celebrating loved ones along with being one of my most unforgettable travel experiences! https://vanishamay.com/2017/04/28/living-with-the-dead-could-you-do-it/

 

Interested in volunteering at Mision Mexico?

You can apply at volunteers@lovelifehope.com! We’d love to hear from you! Must be over 21 and willing to commit for 6 weeks minimum.

 

Thanks for reading!

Vanisha

X

 

Instagram: @vanishamay and @misionmexicovolunteers

Twitter: @misionmexico

Follow us on Facebook too! https://www.facebook.com/MisionMexicoChildren/

 

 

Photograph credits to previous volunteers at Mision Mexico**

If you were a refugee, what would you do? This is my story

If you were a refugee, what would you do? This is my story.

Refugee. A word loved by the media and the fascinating groups like the EDL. But do you  know what that word means? Or what it means to be that word? For those that don’t know me, my name is Vanisha. And I come from a family of refugees.

What is a refugee? Where are they going?

A refugee is “a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.”

Considering there’s 65 million refugees worldwide, we’ve taken in a pathetic amount over recent years (there are an estimated 117,234 refugees living in the UK. That’s just 0.18 per cent of the total population). 86% of all refugees are currently placed in developing countries including Turkey, Pakistan, Lebanon and Ethiopia. So are we doing enough as a developed, western, capable country? No, nowhere near enough. Are they all flooding in to take our homes and jobs? No, evidently not.

 

These are people who never imagined that they would be in these circumstances. People who were in education, people with homes and jobs as teachers, doctors and engineers. People like you, people like me, and people like my own family.

My Beautiful Mum and Me

Why would anyone choose to be a refugee?

Over the last few years I’ve seen a number of narrow-minded, heartless and misunderstood comments and questions assuming that people make the choice to become refugees. No one chooses to leave their home and livelihood in fear of their lives. No one chooses to jump into a boat or to run across borders because the unknown is safer than home. No one chooses to have their title of ‘doctor’ or ‘teacher’ scrapped to ‘refugee’ and a statistic. And if I popped you in the middle of war torn Syria or famine struck South Sudan, you’d want to run a thousand miles too. You’d want a better life, a second chance, safety and food to eat.

So why am I here and what’s this got to do with me? 

Originally, my family had emigrated to Uganda from India in hope for work and a better life. Succeeding like many other Indian Asians, and helping the Ugandan economy to thrive, my family had a home, an income and security. But everything changed in the summer of 1972 when the brutal Ugandan president and dictator, Idi Amin, ordered for the expulsion of all citizens without a Ugandan passport, and all Asians. An idea that apparently came to him in a dream. Over 35,000 Indian Asians were given 60 days to leave. Using extreme violence and placing curfews throughout his reign, my family along with many others were forced to rethink their lives. After seeing people hanging from trees, seeing their businesses burn, my family fled leaving their whole lives behind.

http://gallery.nen.gov.uk/asset652055_13567-.html
Ugandan Asians arriving at Stansted Airport 1972
As British nationals, my family sought refuge in England. It was winter here and they’d never seen snow before. They were homeless, jobless and knew no English. Could you even imagine? They were put in refugee camps near where I grew up, were given work, a home and have stayed ever since. They were hard, manual jobs in the local factories, and very different to their old professions, but still they stuck with it and both my grandmother and grandfather stayed in them same jobs until they retired and until my grandfather passed away. Another family member works in a job centre, coincidentally instead of ‘taking our jobs’, is giving out help and opportunities to others for work.

Contrary to popular belief, my family like many have fully integrated without fully forgetting their traditions, religion and culture. And what a blessing it is to have the best of both worlds. A life full of culture, religion, tradition with a mix of fish and chip Fridays and paneer, all thanks to my Indian mum and English dad.

 

Though life sounds simple and quite happy now, there’s nothing simple or happy about fleeing your lives in fear to a country where not everyone accepts you and everything is alien. It’s terrifying. Although there are happy endings, no one would choose to flee. No one is choosing to put their children in boats that sink. No one chooses to be a refugee. No one chooses to have their education, careers and families being torn apart. Where is the choice in staying in a war torn country or in a home where you’re life could end at any minute? Where is the choice when you’ve lost all family members, there’s no safe drinking water and bombs fly over your head everyday? People don’t have a choice when it’s a matter of life or death. People don’t have a choice. 

My life is a complete blessing thanks to a time where a country opened its arms to a family in need of safety. We must do the same to those living in unimaginable situations today. We are not entitled to this country any more than anyone else on this planet. It’s just plain luck that we’re born on lands that give us safety, comfort and lives of luxury in comparison to lands like Syria and Somalia where people die everyday from things completely curable and non-existent in England.

 

The refugee crisis is bigger than ever before. 50% of all displaced people are children.
Here you can learn more, volunteer or donate:

 

Thanks for reading this fairly deep piece. Any feedback, questions or comments are welcome.
Vanisha

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For lighter stuff, you can follow me and my south american adventure here on Instagram @vanishamay with blogs to follow!