November 22, 2013

Responding With Compassion

Yesterday, The Guardian, posted an article written (under a pseudonym) by a nurse who worked with asylum seekers on Christmas Island. Her article, “My experience as a nurse on Christmas Island changed the core of my being” was well written and shared the stories of asylum seekers she met while working there.

I saw this article posted on Facebook last night and felt it was a wonderful follow up from my blog post on Wednesday about my experiences with refugees. Everything she wrote resonated with my own experiences with refugees and the stories I too have heard. Stories of unthinkable suffering and violence…stories nightmares are made of.

However, like me, she was also struck by the presence of hope and the courageous display of resilience in those seeking safety on our shores. In her article she wrote;

“Surprisingly, my days spent in the induction shed were always the most desirable, because although you'd hear extremely sad stories, you would also be reminded of the strength of the human spirit to overcome tragedy and fight to survive. I often found myself in awe of the sheer tenacity on display. My "clients" were always so grateful to have made the boat journey, grateful to have a hot meal, shelter or water, and grateful to finally be safe from harm.”

It seems people are talking about refugees and asylum seekers at the moment, and it is great to see articles like this one. Sharing the stories of those seeking asylum will allow us to understand the human element of this global issue. Hopefully then we can begin to respond with more compassion and no longer out of ignorance or an uneducated fear.

Jessica Stead xxxx

christmas island Photo sourced from The Guardian (ABC/AP)

November 21, 2013

Are You A Worry Wart?


I am posting this quote today because I needed reminding myself. I find that my modus operandi is often to assume the worst. I often completely forget to consider the best case scenario.

It’s not because I am a negative person, I just feel that in order to be responsible and accountable I need to try to make good decisions. I feel that part of that process is seeing what decisions may lead to negative consequences. So, by default I focus on the negatives. 

This is fine to do…up to a point. It’s necessary to think through your decisions, but it’s important for your health and happiness to make sure your analysis of a decision is balanced.

Spend time thinking about the worst case scenario and how you might manage if something negative happened, but then switch your brain over to thinking about the best case scenario.

When you fail to consider the best case scenario you miss out on imagining future happiness and fulfilment. Your negative fixation can stop you from making certain decisions which could be of great benefit to you.

Think carefully about decisions yes, but don't allow your brain to only focus on the negatives. In any situation there is always so much to be gained…don’t let fear hold you back.

Jessica Stead xxx

November 20, 2013

Hope and Resilience: The True Stories of Refugees

For those who read my work and know me, you would know that the topic of hope both fascinates and inspires me. Hope was not a word or idea I had ever thought much about until 2003 when I began visiting refugees in Villawood Immigration Detention Centre.

I was just out of high school, 18 at the time. My desire to visit the detention centre was sparked by what was known as the ‘children overboard’ situation and the riots at Woomera Immigration Detention Centre. Coming home from school I would watch the nightly news and hear that people were sewing their mouths shut in protest of the treatment they were receiving in Australia, namely the uncertainty of their lives and safety.

The media and politicians at the time were framing this issue as just something ‘these people’ did. Even at 18 I felt that this was absurd. I became determined to understand the real story behind the refugees being detained in Australia.

This determination led to a three year journey as I visited a group of Iranian refugees in Villawood Immigration Detention Centre each week. It was during the conversations I had there that I began to understand the complexities of why people are forced to flee their homelands. I also came to see first-hand the distress people experience when their futures are uncertain and they are dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder.

This week Four Corners aired their story Trading Misery which documented the great suffering of families living in Lebanon, and those who lost their families when the boat they were travelling to Australia in sank.

To witness the situation they are fleeing from, and to see the raw grief those left behind are living with, it reminded me of how great the adversity and anguish is for so many people living around the world. It reminded me again of how very lucky I am to have been born in a safe country.

In honour of those who live in intolerable circumstances and situations, who with great courage and sacrifice, seek hope, safety and freedom, today I wanted to share a part of my personal journey with refugees. I would like to re-print a section of my honours thesis, a thesis which explored the role hope plays in the lives of refugees. This was the prologue of my thesis;
When you sit side by side with someone who is unsure of their fate, you are changed. When there is a very real possibility that their fate could include death, imprisonment or torture, you are left with a deep imprint which fills with despair, sadness and shock.  
Your view of the world changes as your eyes are opened to the way that others live. You come to see that the role of governments in people’s lives, both abroad and within this place you call ‘home,’ can determine life from death. You can’t help but ask questions of God, you can’t help but ask questions of yourself.
In 2003 I began visiting a group of Iranian refugees in Villawood Immigration Detention Centre and did so for three years until they had all been deemed genuine refugees and released. This period of my life I remember vividly with mixed emotions.
This time in my life was punctuated by deep sorrow and pain, as I witnessed the effects of a policy that was designed to ‘send a message’ not support some of the most vulnerable people in the world. It was also a time when I was confronted and challenged by the power of hope and the resilience of the human spirit.
Once I had met refugees in person and heard their stories of courage and survival I could not bear to hear them being described as ‘queue jumpers’, ‘illegal immigrants’ or ‘possible terrorists.’ To me they were hope seekers.     
The refugees I visited had an infectious hope, a strong belief that tomorrow would bring some good news. They held onto the idea that their pain and suffering would not be forever. For some this pain and suffering lasted much longer than it should have. A few refugees were detained for up to six and a half years, but amazingly their hope remained.
While in detention I saw refugees work extremely hard to learn English and Australian colloquialisms, understand the Australian legal system and make Australian friends. These were people who were as actively involved in their lives as they possibly could be.
Their passion for life and their motivation did not cease once released. Once they were granted refugee status, they didn’t delay finding employment and getting off initial Centrelink support, starting businesses, getting their driver’s license, buying cars, securing accommodation, getting married and starting families.
Before circumstances forced these people to flee their homelands, and take on the label of ‘refugee’ or ‘asylum seeker,’ they were people with histories, stories and achievements of their own. The reality is that anyone can become a refugee if circumstances in their country change. This reality should shape our response to refugees, allowing humility and compassion to dictate rather than fear and racism.  
Very little has been written which celebrates the courageous and hopeful spirits of refugees and all they have achieved and survived. My objective for this thesis, therefore, is to create something beautiful that not only acknowledges the hope that refugees hold onto as their life line, but to celebrate and encourage this in all of us.
 Photo sourced from Four Corners

Jessica Stead xxx

November 19, 2013

Switching Off

Last night power went out in my neighbourhood. It was expected the problem wouldn’t be fixed for over two hours. While I was keen to make some dinner, everything I needed to use required electricity, so I had to wait.

Instead, I pulled out my yoga mat, lit a few candles and enjoyed an hour of relaxed yoga and meditation. While doing yoga I enjoyed the quiet. The television was off, I had no music on and I could hear the sound of the rain falling outside. I had put my mobile away to conserve the battery, leaving me alone with myself in the present moment. 

This forced ‘shut down’ was just what I needed. The last few weeks have been busy and stressful, so I found switching off from the world calming and restorative. Coming back to the basic Earth elements of fire through the candle’s flames, and connecting with my body and mind, I couldn’t have been more grateful for the power cut.

When power did come back on the lights shone and the TV seemed to blare. It made me realise how much stimulus we surround ourselves with all the time. It is exhausting, even when we don’t realise it. 

It made me realise that I need to factor in more quiet time in my day and my weeks. The body and the mind needs time out from all the pressures, noise and information that makes up a usual day living in a major city. I hope you too can find some silence in your week to relax and give yourself a break.  

Jessica Stead xxx

candle 2

November 18, 2013

Remembering Loved Ones

This time last week my family said goodbye to a wonderful woman. My Nan passed away on the 4/11/13 at the age of 93. I have been thinking a lot about the sadness and grief we experience when we lose a loved one. It is a difficult process, often a strange mix of sadness that they are gone, yet relief that they are no longer suffering. 

Nan Manly
I was saddened today when I visited a blog by Jessica Ainscough, a fellow writer for Make The World Move, and read that she lost her Mum to breast cancer last month. She wrote a lovely post about it, Saying Goodbye to Mum, and I wanted to share it today in honour of all those who have lost loved ones.

Thinking of you Jessica and everyone today who are missing loved ones.

Jess A

Note: Picture sourced from Jessica Ainscough’s blog.

November 13, 2013

Coffee anyone…?

Do you love coffee as much as I do? You might be surprised to learn that coffee can actually be good for you. Read why in my latest article "More Than Just Your Daily Caffeine Hit...? Discover the Hidden Health Benefits of Coffee."

Jessica Stead xxx