My favorite memory so far from the 2015 IHL Action Campaign happened on March 22 when my team from the Cascades Region held an art gallery event in downtown Portland to educate the community about refugees and their rights. The gallery displayed photos of refugees along with their stories of hardship and survival. My IHL Action Campaign team had invited local refugees who had moved from different parts of Africa to the Portland, Oregon area to talk with attendees about their experiences and their life in the United States. As one of the refugees was looking through the pictures and the corresponding captions on the wall, he realized that we had chosen a picture that was taken in his father’s home village. At the time my team had chosen the photo we hadn’t yet met the refugees, so it was just as surprising to us as it was to him. At that moment, I realized the enormity of what refugees go through.
When my team and I chose to focus on refugees for our art gallery event, we thought that we were spreading awareness on IHL to help strangers that live thousands of miles away from the Pacific Northwest; little did we know that a war-stricken village in Central Africa could be so connected to us. Because of a little coincidence, the photos on the wall felt less foreign to the attendees and to our IHL Action Campaign team. That night, I was able to understand that attaining refugee status at a certain point in someone’s life affects them for the rest of their lives. Just because you are forced to move to another country to avoid a war or conflict doesn’t mean you always return to your lifestyle or home when the war or conflict is over. And just because I live in an area that has never seen war does not mean that I am not directly affected by a war thousands of miles away.
– Guest Blogger: Megan P.
*The purpose of the IHL Action Campaign is for young people to teach their peers about the importance of IHL, as well as issues related to gender, refugees, and humanitarianism.