A Refugee's Journey from Bhutan
A Refugee's Journey from Bhutan
There was so much fear. Boko Haram killed people in villages, at schools, and on the road. We were worried they would come to our village. Soon, they closed our school because it was not safe for us to be there. My father told us we could not leave our home. He was too afraid we would be taken by those very bad men. My father is a good man and he believes it is important for us to learn. He said it broke his heart to take us from our school. But the threat was too great.
(From A Refugee’s Journey from Nigeria)
Crabtree Publishing has added six new books to the timely series “Leaving My Homeland”. I liked this series when I reviewed the first books in the series in 2017, and I think it continues to be very relevant today.
The new books in the series give examples of the refugee experience from around the world, including countries in South Asia, Central America, Africa, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe. As different as the locations are, the stories share a common storyline. In each, a child’s life is disrupted by conflict in their homeland. The reasons for the conflicts vary, but the results are the same. The family is forced to flee.
Each book follows one child and his or her family as they relocate. Some of the children escape to a different country where they are accepted (more or less) as refugees; some children become Internally Displaced People (IDP) when they are forced to abandon their homes and are relocated in camps within their own country. Statistics, maps, background information about the homeland country, and specifics of the crisis set each family’s story in a unique context.
Scattered through the books are different articles of the United Nation’s Rights of the Child.
The government must help ensure your rights are protected. They have a duty to help your family protect your rights, and help you reach your potential. (From A Refugee’s Journey from Nigeria)
Each book includes a table of contents, a simple glossary, an index, and a page of resources for additional information. Each book ends with a list of ways young readers can help, such as “Offer to show new students around your school and neighborhood. Introduce them to your friends and family.”
Each book includes an explanation of the differences between internally displaced persons (IDPs), refugees, and immigrants. These are terms that are constantly in the news currently. These books will help young readers understand the important distinctions.
Discussion prompts, such as, “Explain the difference between a refugee, an immigrant, and an IDP”, help students consolidate their learning from the books while more open-ended discussion prompts, such as, “Speak out against discrimination when you see it happening”, will promote deeper thinking, and encourage action.
The books in this series support the concept of global citizenship. Purchasing one or all the books may help students who have never been refugees gain some empathy for the turmoil experienced by some of their new classmates and discover ways to support refugees in their communities. Some newcomers may feel supported by seeing stories similar to their own experiences presented in the books.
A Refugee’s Journey from Bhutan presents a dramatically different story from the more well-known public image of Bhutan as the originator of the Gross National Happiness concept. Beginning in the mid-1980s, Bhutan’s commitment to preserving culture, one of the four pillars of happiness, has created hardships and violated the rights of minorities. This book tells the story of Amita, one of the more than 100,000 Lhotshampas living for years in refugee camps in Nepal.
The good news is that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees resettlement program successfully relocated more than 80,000 refugees. “Today, only two camps remain in Nepal, with about 18,000 refugees.”
A Refugee’s Journey from El Salvador tells a young boy’s story of living in a country “known as the most dangerous place on Earth outside a war zone”. Ordinary citizens were often caught in the middle of gang violence.
Each book includes text boxes highlighting some relevant statistics. For example, in A Refugee’s Journey from El Salvador, readers will learn:
El Salvador’s Story in Numbers
1 in 10 Salvadoran children is forced to leave school to avoid gang violence and bullying.
Unfortunately, there is no happy or even hopeful ending to the gang problems in El Salvador yet.
A Refugee’s Journey from Eritrea has been overtaken by recent improved diplomatic relationships between Eritrea and neighbouring Ethiopia. Known as “the fastest emptying country on Earth” since the Eritrean government began indefinite military conscription in 2002, as I write this review a peace settlement between Ethiopia and Eritrea seems to be genuine. The border is now open for travel, and the countries have agreed to play their first football (soccer) match in 20 years. The book’s story of Dawit is still worth including in your library collection. It tells the story of two young Eritrean brothers fleeing military conscription described by some as slavery. “They follow the world’s deadliest migrant route through the Sahara Desert and across the Mediterranean Sea.”
A Refugee’s Journey from Iran includes a clear statement about Islamophobia.
In some places, people wrongly believe that Iranians are terrorists because of their religion and the country’s political unrest. Some people also think that Iranians might be violent because they are Muslim. This is called Islamophobia. It is unfair to label people like this. Refugees simply want a safe place to live. They are not terrorists.
Canada is mentioned as a country that takes in Iranian refugees, but it is not included on the map graphic showing 2011 Iranian refugee asylum seeker statistics.
A Refugee’s Journey from Nigeria tells the story of Baseema’s flight from their village when the Boko Haram, “extremist Islamic terrorists”, arrive.
Nigeria’s Story in Numbers
An estimated 2,000 women and girls have been kidnapped by Boko Haram in northern Nigeria. 1.2 million children had fled their homes in northern Nigeria by 2015.
A Refugee’s Journey from Ukraine contains the only error I noticed in these books. Describing one part of the journey that Miron takes when he flees the war, the conversion between miles and kilometres is incorrect. “I was tired, even though the drive to Dnipro was only 55 miles (250 km).” The correct conversion would be 155 miles (250 km).
As in the earlier books in the “Leaving My Homeland” series, the details of the simply told narratives are easy to read but almost impossible to comprehend by people who have never experienced them.
Dr. Suzanne Pierson, a former teacher-librarian, currently instructs librarianship courses at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.