Let Me Tell You My Story

“An extraordinary collection of extraordinary lives lived out in extraordinary circumstances, “Let Me Tell You My Story” is a compelling read and one that will linger in the mind and memory long after the book itself is finished and set back upon the shelf. A unique and outstanding contribution to our contemporary national discussion over refugees and immigration, “Let Me Tell You My Story” should be a part of every community and academic library collection in the country.” 

Mary Cowper
Reviewer, Midwest Book Review50080180_10155670937981090_829490057533456384_o

That review explains, in part, why my blog has been silent for a while. If I haven’t said it before, I’ll repeat that it’s never for lack of things to share that I slip off the blog map. It’s for lack of bandwidth. Otherwise, I have no excuses.

Instead of shuttering closed my blog completely (which I’ve been tempted to do because  … bandwidth and I love remaining connecting with my readers), I’m back here updating. Who could use a dose of meaningful, inspiring news?

stacks of book

Their Story is Our Story,  (TSOS), the refugee nonprofit I’ve been involved in from its inception in the winter of 2016, has published a handsome and life-changing volume. I’m convinced every person on earth should read it.

You, in fact, should read it. And then you should review it. To expedite that, here’s a link to a free e-review copy:

https://www.edelweiss.plus/?sku=1641700491

tsos poster

It is a huge honor for me to now serve as the Executive Director of TSOS’ quickly growing community of visionaries and grit & grip doers. And I am, of course, in awe of our many refugee friends, some of whom you will meet in this book, who continue to share their stories and show us the way to the best in humanity. This volume is a tribute to them.

And I take no personal credit for its existence. Special thanks go to our Editor in Chief,  the unstoppable Twila Bird, who worked superhuman hours to oversee the creation and publication of this gorgeous collection in record time; to Kate Farrell of Familius Publishing, who has been a joy and strength to work with; to Christopher Robbins, Familius CEO, who’s publicly stated that this is the most “important book” he has ever published in his 25+ year publishing career; Trisha Leimer, TSOS Chair and Founder who has driven our team with wisdom and through challenging personal transition (last spring, she and her husband Axel accepted a request to oversee for three years and without pay 120+ volunteers for their faith in the Berlin, Germany region); and the entire TSOS family, made up of art, photography, video, tech, writing, travel, social media, refugee liaison, fundraising, networking, translation, research, PR, live events and documenting teams.

Their efforts have, among other significant service, produced Let Me Tell You My Story, a heavy, visually stunning, and substantial work. It is in no way a comprehensive collection of the interviewing and compiling work our growing TSOS team has done over these last two years. Rather, it is a cross section of both our refugee and volunteer stories, pointing subtly to the way host culture natives learn from newcomers like refugees, and how the intersection of these seemingly dissimilar lives blesses and benefits everyone.

Let Me Tell You My Story ranks now among the Top 25 Amazon titles for Humanitarian Law right  next to  the likes of Malala and Nicolas Kristof. We’ve learned it is already being used as a textbook in a university seminar on global migration, fulfilling our vision (and the suggestion of the above Midwest Book Review) that Let Me Tell You My Story should have a place in every academic, political, local library’s and family’s book shelves.

A final plus: a full 40% of Let Me Tell You My Story’s proceeds (after covering printing, shipping and distribution costs)  return to TSOS to help our 100% volunteer organization collect and tell the stories of refugees, of their friends made along the route, and of the hosts who welcome them into their new places of safety.

But our storytelling is not an end in itself. It serves the specific end goal of partnering alongside organizations — local to international — to facilitate the integration of newcomers in host communities.

No refugee is really safe until she or he is integrated in a new home. And integration takes every last one of us. Whether you interact with or even know your newcomer neighbors or not, their story is weaving into your story. Our stories are connected. The deeper you follow those stories, the more unified you realize we all actually are.

Their Story is Our Story.

And Our Story is Theirs.

We are all writers of and characters in one great, evolving story.

 

 

Their Story is Our Story: Giving Refugees a Voice

With our friends at Limburg refugee camp, central Germany

With our friends at Limburg refugee camp

How do a hard-working, visionary refugee liaison, an award-winning videographer, an award-winning photographer, award-winning portrait painter, and an award-winning author who have never all met each other,  (they live in four different time zones), find one another and combine their gifts to bless the displaced, distressed and desperate?

Divine choreography.

And what are the results?

A great deal of 3:00 a.m. cross-global texting. Plus some moments of humbled amazement.

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Their Story is Our Story: Giving Voice to Refugees

The five of us involved in this project have watched as our connections––simply too far-flung to happen without reliable WIFI, and too far-fetched to happen without a steady dose of heavenly intervention –– have seemed to slide into place. Really, it’s been like liquid lightning. The electricity has flowed and flowed.

Trisha with Leyla, whose story will send thunder through your bones.

Trisha with Leyla, whose story, which we will soon share, will send thunder through your bones. She is a survivor multiple times over.

So let me first hand over the page to Trisha, my friend and inspiration in doing refugee work here in Germany. She can explain to you how Their Story is Our Story (TSOS) evolved.

And then I will share three brief refugee profiles with you. They are but a foretaste of what TSOS is about.

Finally, I’d like you to meet the team, including Garrett Gibbons, Elizabeth Benson Thayer, and Lindsay Allen Silsby, who in under five minutes will surely ignite a desire in you to lean in, step forward, and reach out with compassion to our refugee sisters and brothers.

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Trisha recently wrote the following to her circle of friends who have been involved in refugee work here in Germany:

Some of you might be interested in a project that has fallen from the cosmos and into my life.

A few weeks ago, I received an email from a dear American artist friend who used to live here in Frankfurt, and on the same day a message was forwarded to me from a complete stranger in London who does high-end portraits. Both of these women have been feeling strong impressions to put their talents to work for the refugees here in Europe. Meanwhile, I had been having strong impressions about putting together a media project to share these beautiful people and their incredible stories with others. I am certain this was not by chance that the Spirit was working on all of us at the same time…it is very simply Divine Choreography!

In the two weeks since then, things have just fallen into place. A group of five people with amazing gifts has formed and we are planning for them to travel from Seattle, Washington, northern Utah, and from London to sketch, photograph and film refugees here in the Frankfurt area and then, hopefully, in the camps in Greece. Some of the stories we hope to tell are people you may know. Adib and his son, Hasan. Tahmina, Daniel, Hangama and their family. Others we’ve grown so close to, whose stories inspire and

Our plan is to create first a video and then a book and eventually a traveling exhibit. We want to tell these stories and change hearts! I feel so strongly the hand of Diety in this project! As you each have felt, I feel the special attention our Father in Heaven is paying these people at this time. And I know that this project is His project.

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Now, for three brief profiles of people who have become far more than “refugees” to us. In fact, we don’t like the word “refugee” very much, as it generalizes (and neutralizes) the poignancy and sacredness of each human story.

ADIB

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Adib, a true gentleman.

Adib, a true gentleman.

Adib is a Palestinian Syrian from Damascus, whose thriving business as a master mason and ceramic tile layer was laid to rubble when war ravaged his world. With his son and business partner, Hasan, Adib made luxurious baths and kitchens in his home country, but most of them, like his own home, are now no more than a crater. Father and son made the perilous winter journey to Germany where both have been living for months in a tented barrack outside the town of Limburg. In spite of having lost virtually every material thing, Adib seems to maintain a perpetually sunny outlook. He is often found sitting with his head bent over his German lesson book, piecing together this new language the way he used to place tiles; meticulously, with patience, and always with the end result, integration, in mind. With these new reading glasses which he was given by a camp volunteer, Adib looks toward a bright and peaceful future.

VAHID

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Elizabeth Benson Thayer's sketch of Vahid

Elizabeth Benson Thayer’s sketch of Vahid

Vahid is Iranian, and arrived in Germany with the first wave of refugees in the early autumn of 2015. He was barely in his 20s. That journey meant leaving behind everything that was familiar and of value to him, including his home with his entire extended family and a mother he adores, his culture with its poetic language and fragrant food, his lifelong friends, and the plans they’d all made for the future. All this to launch into the complete unknown and in order to escape encroaching religious persecution and civil unrest. Vahid is a musician, and finds refuge in composing as well as singing while accompanying himself on a guitar. But you can’t easily make music in a cramped refugee camp. And of course among the few things he could carry over his shoulder, a guitar was not included. Already, he’s sung publicly in German, one of the many steps he’s taking toward integration in this new world.

TAHMINA

Daniel, Tahmina and Hangama Ahmadi

Daniel, Tahmina and Hangama Ahmadi

Tahmina is Afghani, the eldest of four siblings, and made it to Germany almost entirely by foot. Like her younger brother Daniel, who is a whizz at chess (and beats every last refugee camp volunteer who challenges him to a set), Tahmina is obviously bright and ambitious. Her English reflects a solid education and an eager mind. She hesitates to give too many details of the perilous trek from her homeland to Europe, (“So dangerous. So frightening. So sad,” she says), and doesn’t dwell on her innumerable losses. No stranger to hazard, Tahmina lived all her eighteen years with war and terror as a daily backdrop, since Afghanistan has been the stage for constant insurrections, coups, unrest, and destruction for 35 years. With Hangama, her younger sister, and Muri, her baby brother, she and her parents have one hope: to escape fear and live together in peace.

Please watch. Please share.

 

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© Melissa Dalton-Bradford and melissadaltonbradford.wordpress.com, 2016.  This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. . . which means, as long you’re not selling it, you’re welcome to share, but please remember to give me a link and mention my name.