Cadence Yu is a De Montfort University student on a placement with ArtReach. She's written a blog post for us on her experience with the team working with the Refugee and Asylum-seeker community and draws interesting parallels with her home town of Hong Kong.
This is a beautiful bunch of vegetables I got on the second day of my placement with ArtReach. I can't recall the name of it, but I do clearly remember the bittersweet taste and the happiness it brought me. It was grown by a refugee who has been residing in the UK for a long time, a gardener himself who shares his crops with the community in the Leicester City of Sanctuary on a regular basis.
A week later, I saw him again. This time, he offered me a new bunch. I told him, “I would really love to accept it, but I also want to make sure everyone in the community gets theirs before me”. He smiled gently and replied, “Not to worry, I grow enough for everyone here and I want you to share the joy, it makes me happy”.
Right…smile, joy and happiness.
Despite the tough times they are having, the refugees and asylum seekers I came across in the Leicester City of Sanctuary have never forgotten to share, and their experience doesn’t make them care any less about other people. One of the volunteers there told me that he saw the refugees and asylum seekers as equal to the locals. The only difference was they were facing difficult life situations out of their control and they needed help.
I couldn’t agree with him more.
As a person from Hong Kong, I was extremely shocked by the news that two Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters were granted refugee status in Germany last year. It was shocking because Hong Kong was once a place where people could express themselves freely and held the right to protest. This case in addition to many other recent incidents, reflect the gradual disappearance of these freedoms. It was once a place that many refugees and asylum seekers called home, but the political and social disturbances these days leave Hong Kong’s livability in doubt. People are now migrating, some even forced to flee. It is truly upsetting.
I am glad this placement with ArtReach brings me closer to these friendly refugees and asylum seekers in the UK, who I previously hadn’t thought much about, but now I find myself greatly connected with. I am also pleased to see the Journeys Festival International that I am taking part in gives these beautiful people a voice, instead of having a top-down approach in its programming process.