Saturday, August 26, 2017

Working with Refugees in Malaysia

Greetings from Malaysia, where Bond Street is launching its newest project working with refugee groups.

More than 150,000 refugees and asylum seekers are registered with UNHCR in Malaysia, coming from a range of countries and languishing in makeshift housing.

Many have fled active conflicts in Myanmar, where Bond Street has been working since 2009, while others have traveled from Afghanistan, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Iraq and Syria. With the influx of men, women and children from different parts of the world, language barriers, cultural differences, and lack of employment plague refugees who struggle to start a new life.

We are partnering with Asylum Access Malaysia – a respected advocate for refugee rights – to implement programming that will assist in their work. Asylum Access runs a variety of “know your options” trainings for refugees, covering everything from healthcare access to education to UNHCR registration.

However, these trainings are often delivered by PowerPoint, which presents a challenge since many of Malaysia’s refugees are illiterate.

That’s where theatre will come in.

A workshop with the Rohingya Women's Development Network

First, we are working with a group of Rohingya women who want to learn theatre. We are working on teaching theatre techniques, and on identifying a range of problems faced by the community, which we will later work together to dramatize.

We are also working with a mixed-gender group of Somali refugees who have newly formed a community advocacy organization. When we did our Problem Tree exercise, where participants speak about local issues and their causes, the group named cultural integration, language barriers, and jobs among their concerns.

Finally, we are working with Masakini Theatre, a Malaysian troupe, to bring Asylum Access's PowerPoints to life.

After one week, we’re already off to a great start. We can’t wait to see where this project takes us.