“I feel safe, but I am not happy”

As I reflected on the readings this week, I considered the themes present in refugee camps and suburbia. Suburbia: a gathering of the arrogant and privileged. A place where privilege is so central to life that members of the community can afford to experience a lack of purpose, the feeling of being at a dead end, and general monotony in stable, well paying jobs. People who are trapped in a state of anomie, where there is a breakdown of community and connection to both an individual and communal identity. These feelings and emotions transcend cultures and countries in very different contexts. Flash to a refugee camp; where once vibrant identities and cultures are torn apart by war and genocide. Groups of people ripped from their homes and forced into a state of waiting and monotony. Yes, they are in a safe place. Yes, they receive rations of food and supplies. But are they truly living? I feel safe but I am not happy. The words of 16 year old Farid Ahmad strike a chord for me. I think I was under the impression that people living in refugee camps had such a strong sense of community and brotherhood/sisterhood with their fellow refugees that they were able to live with a degree of happiness. There is comfort in closeness to others, but without a driving purpose and meaning in life, without a plan or vision for the future, where is hope? Where is joy? Sitting idly, waiting for someone to tell you that your home is safe, or that it has been destroyed, or waiting for the UN to find a place to resettle you, is agony.

I really appreciate reading personal accounts of those directly affected by war and genocide. While my heart is heavy as I continue to read and reflect this week, I feel like I have a much deeper understanding. This understanding is not making me feel better about any of this. I am antsy and frustrated and probably even more concerned about connecting with people when we get to Phoenix. Yes, I have felt feelings of purposelessness, but for me, it is part of my privilege. Does my involvement with Alternative Breaks only serve to satiate this purposelessness or can I channel this productively?

Jen

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