When I was appointed to be one of the group leaders for the learning journey at Cisarua Refugee Learning Center, my mind was gripped with a dilemma as to whether I shall feel grateful and humbled to be given the opportunity to take on this responsibility or to feel wary about the social stigma that has been inculcated in me by the media about the topic of refugees. I must admit that initially, I did not have a clear perception as of what to expect at the venue.
However, as the leaders had to survey the place before the dates of the learning journey, this meant that I, along with the other group leaders, were supposed to head down earlier and thus gain a firsthand experience.
Arriving at the Cisarua Refugee Learning Center, my mind was instead filled with admiration towards the lively venue as well as the people -the people (both the teachers and the students) were very polite towards us guests and tended to each other without fail, smiles plastered on their faces. Signs of strife or hostility, as what the media would always portray, were absent. What was present instead were the warm welcomes and inclusive people interested in helping out one another.
Hence, when the day came and I had to lead my group to engage with the students of ages 10 to 12, my group members were already equipped with an open mindset, enthusiastic of sharing what we could offer to them. We sang, danced and shared personal anecdotes to each, widening each other’s appreciation of whatever we are blessed with. Although we came to teach the students, it was in fact them who had taught us more, inspiring us further with their energizing tales of their aspirations and beliefs. Ergo, the exchange between the Junior College 1 students of Raffles and the students of Cisarua Refugee Learning Center was really rewarding in a sense that all of us have learnt the value of remaining optimistic -the one thing they have taught us to never give up on – through hardships and for the opportunity of establishing friendship which had definitely renewed our conception of the refugees.
Just like what the Tennessee Office for Refugees had said , “To be called a refugee is the opposite of an insult; it is a badge of strength, courage and victory.
Written by : Venice Wong (Junior College 1A)