At 8 years old you became a refugee. You were on the school playground when you heard the fighting, but you couldn’t go home to your parents. Instead you were told to run and hide. You were scared, alone. With hundreds of other victims of war you walked on foot to try and seek safety. You thought about your parents and siblings every day. Where were they ? Were they safe? Alive? Some people didn’t survive the long walk- but you did.
By 11, you had arrived in northern Kenya at the Kakuma refugee camp which was to be your home alongside 100,000 other people. You were given a refugee number - 946027. You lived under plastic shelters for years but you never lost hope that one day your parents would find you. Each time you saw a plane overhead you imagined that one day you’d be in one. Some days the food rations were so low that you had to eat the small roots in the dirt. This was not the life for a child.
Fast forward and you are 18 years old, telling me your story on a couch in Canberra. Your dad ended up finding you (that’s another story) and a year after I met you, your mum was found too and we raised the funds to get her to Australia. We became Australia’s first youth representatives for the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and every time we stood up to talk, I held your hand. We became best friends - bound by a story and a belief in helping others.
Today you care for people with disabilities and you have 3 children - Achol, Alek (who I asked to be flower girls at my wedding last year) and your beautiful, fragile boy Agok who has had multiple heart surgeries before 2 years of age.
On world refugee day, I honour you. I honour your resilience. I honour your courage. I honour your ability to keep walking, step by step.
We cannot close our hearts to refugees. We cannot and we must not let our politicians set the precedent for our generosity.
My home is your home. You are my family. - 49 minutes ago