Prepared by Alexandra Dawley – Manager, Refugee Settlement and Integration Program
A soccer ball.
A box of black tea.
Ordinary objects can become extraordinary symbols of welcome.
MOSAIC is proud to have partnered with Oxfam Canada to present Museum Without a Home, Victoria. Held on November 15th, this event was part of an international, award-winning exhibition featuring real objects given to refugees in their new countries as symbols of friendship and solidarity. Particular focus was placed on the stories of women and girls, shining light on the unique challenges they can face while seeking asylum.
Shirin* and Muna* are both resilient, remarkable, well-spoken community leaders. Together with their husbands and Shirin’s child, they travelled together to Victoria for this event as the much anticipated keynote speakers.
Shirin and Muna were both forced to flee their homes due to increasing instability and well-founded fear of persecution. With unique backgrounds and experiences, their journeys to Canada were distinctly different but equally challenging. Upon arrival to Vancouver they both claimed asylum and began the uncertain, lengthy process of navigating Canada’s refugee claim system. Without close friends or relatives in Canada, these women faced tremendous stress, grief and overwhelm.
However, acts of welcome significantly helped to ease the hardship of this challenging time. All attendees of this exhibition were fortunate to witness the resilience, thoughtfulness and great sense of humour possessed by Shirin and Muna, while listening to the stories of welcome they shared.
An offering of tea made a significant impact on Shirin:
Muna’s story, represented by a MOSAIC T-Shirt, expressed:
The stories of these women are unique, however they do not stand alone. At present, the UNHCR estimates that there are 70.8 million people displaced world wide. Such a number can become so massive that it feels incomprehensible – unfathomably large. This event amplified the voices of women who have navigated the refugee claim system in our communities – A reminder that there is no “us” vs. “them”. Rather, we are all just people, with the opportunity to support each other in times of challenge by connecting through warm acts of welcome.
*Please note, the names of the individuals in this article have been changed to respect the privacy of them and their families abroad while they navigate the refugee claim process.
Through meaningful collaboration, MOSAIC’s Refugee Settlement and Integration Program provides essential services to hundreds of refugee claimants annually. Learn more about MOSAIC’s Settlement services here mosaicbc.org/services/settlement/