The inspiring film “Sierra Leone’s Refugee All-Stars” captures the journeys in West Africa of a group caught in the fallout of civil war in their home country and includes stories of personal tragedy, grief, and confusion.
It also shows the refugees’ humor, resilience in the face of devastation as well as transcendence in overcoming trauma. Many were able to forgive the perpetrators. What helped them cope was music, and several formed a band.
After we viewed the film, WTB member Yassin Sarr-Fox, who is from the Gambia (near Sierra Leone), led a discussion. Her family sheltered several Sierra Leone refugees who had found their way into her country.
She asked those in attendance to consider the ways in which we define ourselves, such as family, profession, position in the community, or material possessions.
“If you were suddenly evacuated and relocated to another country, what do you have to fall back on?” Yassin queried the group. “In addition to losing everything and everyone who is familiar, consider the additional traumas of rape, malnutrition, disease.”
Then she asked the group to think again about how they might answer the question differently in how they define themselves.
Participants shared experiences as refugees from Iraq and from Haiti, while others shared stories of their parents being refugees during World War II. We left the meeting with a greater understanding and empathy for those who have faced unspeakable losses and the ability of the human spirit to move forward beyond suffering.