It's been exactly a year since Trump became the president of the USA. I had just spent a week at the Cisarua Refugee Learning Centre (CRLC), where his immigration ban directly affected Sedeqa, one of our best and most hard-working teachers. Frustrated I decided that The Staging Post and supporting the Cisarua Refugee Learning Centre would be my personal protest. I doubled down on my commitment.
On Trump's anniversary, I want to celebrate and recognise the dedicated teachers and students at the CRLC, and also thank the President of the United States for his inspiration. (This is what I wrote at the time.)
Happy Anniversary Mr President.
Does The Donald inspire you too? We have started filming the second episode of The Staging Post and could really use your help.
The initial initiative of the refugees in Cisarua, to start a school with two rooms and two hundred dollars, created a wave positive energy that is still rippling around the world.
We are going to follow our resettled 'graduates' and keep filming the stories in Cisarua. Khadim is travelling across America and Canada to visit the ex-refugees there. Janbaz, our new cameraman, is filming the ongoing story in Cisarua. Muzafar is speaking at schools and universities around Australia and I keep pulling the whole story together.
The successes are remarkable.
The CRLC kids are going straight into their age-appropriate grades without any English language training!
Tahira got a job in two weeks in Canada and will enrol at Uni shortly.
Nagina has already finished her first year of an education degree at University.
Muzafar, Khadim, Amir, Matin, Tabessum, Zulfi and many others all have similar stories. We can't wait to share them with you.
Unfortunately this is set against the backdrop of the ongoing refugee crisis and the limbo in Indonesia and we won't forget our friends there. Our commitment is to accompany them for as long as they need.
This story has a long way to go yet.
Jan 23rd, 2017
After spending a week at our beloved Cisarua Refugee Learning Centre I am sitting at the airport with a renewed determination. What can we do to counter Trump, and an Australian Government who supports his policies?
Well, I’m doubling down on supporting the CRLC. I’m coming back to Australia with new gusto and determination. Now it’s more important than ever to reach out from behind our government. We have to show the world that generosity of spirit, connection across borders and helping each other is the only way. Locking out defenceless people and bullying the most needy is not the right direction.
This week at the CRLC I spent the first few days watching family after family line up to register. 25 new names on the waiting list just this week! One family of six had arrived from Kunduz two days earlier. You could still see war in their faces and in the way they held their bodies. I was thinking, what can we do?
And then straight after that, the horror of this weekend and the realisation that this really is happening (The immigration ban).
One of our best teacher's is affected. After nearly four years of valiantly waiting in 'the queue’, and two years of volunteer teaching at the CRLC, she was days away from going to the USA. No one knows what will happen now.
Another family, after three years has been asked to come to the airport on the 31st. We can only hope.
Samie, who was 14 and living on the streets outside the UNHCR when we met, was due to leave today. I just heard he has boarded the plane. What will happen when he arrives? Will they send an orphaned 16 year old boy back to the Jakarta streets? You can read more about his story in the NY Times here.
The school is running like clockwork under our fiercely determined and talented manager, Tahira. The students have advanced incredibly. Every kid comes up for a chat, in English as good as any kid their age.
The mornings are full of classes, buzzers and play while teachers prepare lessons in the lounge. There are 50+ older women in the afternoons learning ABCD. Online classes run downstairs and Australian volunteer teacher's voices ring out through Skype. The older students stay at school all day to work on presentations and projects.
I’m proud of everyone there, and proud to have helped make this happen.
I arrive back tomorrow morning and the work starts then.