Wednesday, June 20, 2012

One story: World Refugee Day

Before today, I had never asked Kenny how he came to America. In fact, I'd never thought about whether or not he was born here. We had chatted often enough, mostly about the weather, our kids and what to order for lunch. Kenny is the owner of my favourite cafe.

Today our conversation took off in a new direction, as we joked about letting my own daughter get behind the counter and start working. We discussed the regulations governing the hiring of teenagers, including the paperwork that must be signed by businesses to ensure that kids are not working too many hours on school nights. We agreed that Ms10 would make an excellent employee - in five years time.

Then Kenny told me that he had started working at the age of eleven. He did this in order to help his mother - who was working multiple jobs herself - support himself and his four siblings. And in his own words, since the age of eleven he has never stopped working.

Kenny came to America as a refugee. He fled Vietnam with his family when he was five, spending two years in refugee camps in China before arriving in America by boat. He has returned just once and is now thinking about sending his own three children back to show them where they came from and just how lucky they are.

I had no idea it was World Refugee Day when I walked out my front door this morning or when I spoke to Kenny about his own remarkable journey from Vietnam to the United States.

A year ago I wrote this post on Australia's approach to refugees, one that demonises people just like Kenny for political gain.  It doesn't seem that much has changed, and the detention of Ranjini and others like her represents a whole new and troubling chapter in our nation's story.


























8 comments:

geekymummy said...

One of my dear friends and colleagues is a Vietnamese refugee. She is a scientist like myself, a product of California public schools of the 1980's and of the UC university system. A system that back then allowed a bright young woman who spent her childhood in refugee camps to be her very best. I get angry when I see these opportunities being denied this generations bright young immigrants.

Cheapholidays.org said...

That remind me of my father's story. His father died when he was 8 so he started work and helping his mother practically at that age.There are many suffering people so we must be thankful that we are health and our kids have childhood.

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