An Accident of Birth


#sol18- April 24, 2018

This weekend I went away with a group of colleagues for a “girls weekend”. Preparations started weeks ago, but in the week before, we prepared in a different way. A friend found out about Hassan. Hassan is a Syrian man who has been living in a local airport for more than a month. Lisa put out a call to see if anyone would be travelling into KL and would thus be at the arrivals area of the airport (impossible to access unless you are actually arriving on a flight). We responded and began our plans to offer what help we could when we returned from our weekend away.

We had a fun weekend and on Sunday morning put our resources and brains together to gather some supplies for him (including a folding mat, some clothing, toiletries, and food- we also *may* have hidden some money in the suitcase). Meeting him just before going through immigration in KL was humbling. This man who has been through so much was polite, conversational, funny, and friendly. He was grateful for the gifts, but also appreciated the thoughts behind our support and insisted on taking a picture with us. He was cautiously optimistic about his future and said that he had many kind people supporting his case.

Meeting Hassan gave me pause. Here we were returning from a frivolous weekend in Bangkok- gathered for a weekend away before some of us move on from our present location. We get to choose where we live- we are in Malaysia by choice and can come and go as we like, because of our passport countries. I am currently navigating all of the bureaucracy that moving countries entails, and although it is stressful, it is all possible because I am choosing the move. I am not afraid for my life, nor worried about what the future holds for family members far away (well, a little, but that is only because I can not hold them in a bubble). I have signed on for my next job and know that there will be some challenges associated with living in Cambodia, but I also know that I will be able to live at a much higher standard than many others there.

I know that migration, immigration, and refugees are hot points of contention for many people, but when these issues are embodied in a real person shaking your hand it is impossible to not want to help in my own small way. I know I will continue to see Hassan’s face in my mind as I look for more opportunities to be more active in community service. I really hope Hassan is given a chance at a new life somewhere soon.

4 thoughts on “An Accident of Birth

  1. Alice Nine

    Reading about Hassan reminds me … of my mother’s stories when she came through Ellis Island. And I think of two families we helped for a couple years who fled life threatening situations, at first unable to get work or receive support except from individuals. I think of a man who had been in prison because he had been a military officer in the ousted regime… who made a harrowing escape, who stayed with us for several months before he was received by Canada. All from different continents, now citizens of new homelands.

  2. Brian Rozinsky

    I figured you’d have some special perspectives on travel, and I was *not* disappointed. Hassan’s story reminded me of the movie _The Terminal_, except his truth feels stranger and sadder than any fiction.

  3. sallydonnelly11

    Thanks for sharing. Having just returned from my chosen trip to see Anne, I too ponder my abilities vs those that have fewer choices. You remind me to see the Hannans in my area and do what I can to help.


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