On a sunny summer day of August 4th 2019, we visited the newly opened Refugee Network Centre (RNC) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. We were also reunited with one of our communities, Artbox, as you may read more about here.
We spent the day enjoying the art exhibition from Artbox, music performances, games and some chit-chats alongside, of course, snacking. We got to listen to the stories behind the paintings. The young artists mostly painted about their dreams. One wanted to be a ballerina, while the other drew a map of their hometown in which she puts her dream into (yes, they were mostly girls). Some of them also wrote on their paintings, expressing their view on humanity.
Besides paintings, they also tell stories of themselves. Some are happy stories and some are not. One of the artists, Reza Rostami, is going to be relocated to South Korea in the near time. He was also one of the founders of Artbox.
We also got to know the RNC management team and the NGO that supports the centre, Same Skies. Both of their teams are very diverse, coming from various countries across the world. The multicultural teams have with the same mission: to help the “forcibly displaced people in the world”, quoting from the Same Skies site.
Initially, Same Skies is an non-profit organisation, consisting of passionate humanitarian professionals . They support refugees and asylum seekers across the world, being registered in Switzerland, Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia. One of its projects is to support refugees through their leadership programme and RNC comes as the result from the programme. Previously, they have also helped support a refugee centre in Bogor, Indonesia.
However, don’t mistake the refugee centre as a shelter. Same Skies focuses on building the refugees’ resilience. The modest building of RNC, for example, is not equipped with facilities for refugees to live in the centre. Instead, it provided rooms and facilities to support refugees’ events, network and development. For instance, there is a craft room, where refugees can regularly learn and practice handicrafts.
Meeting refugees and interacting with them in person will shift people's view about them. Media usually show only certain side of their lives and so most people will associate them with vulnerability. But refugees, like us, have more than one story to tell. Those whom we met at RNC, even though they were a bit shy at first, are very welcoming and cheerful. They have shown us the other side of them: a hopeful community.