“Some 2.6 million Syrian children are living as refugees or on the run in search of safety … Syria is now the world's biggest producer of both internally displaced people and refugees.” - UNICEF USA
It was on a Wednesday in the summer of 2015 where a photo of Alan Kurdi, a Syrian child refugee, emerged in the media; his body lifeless and washed up on shore. The emergence of this photo ignited the dire reality for the Syrian people in the midst of the Syrian conflict. It also ignited the dire need to take them in as they fled in droves to the open Mediterranean Sea to seek refuge and asylum in such countries like Turkey, Canada, France, and even the United States. However, such asylum in the United States was met with a divided nation due to the blind eye of the Trump Administration towards Islamicphobic hate crimes. This time had raised questions for me as to how people can deny others of a life without the destruction of war. How can people sit back while children lose their innocence to war? They are refugees just like my mother. She had risked her life and sailed by boat to escape the aftermath of the Viet Nam War. There was no future for her there. She was forced to flee, not knowing what trauma she would have to hold in exchange for a chance to a future. I would not be here if she didn’t.
San José has one of the biggest Vietnamese immigrant communities and is a vibrant multicultural city because of the cultural plazas that are built by the hands of immigrants. I can only imagine the city becoming more vibrant when Syrian refugees are able to heal and build a future of their own. I’ve reflected on these thoughts a lot during the death of Alan Kurdi. I’ve also reflected on the silent, inflicted trauma that these Syrian children hold. I see it in the Vietnamese plazas. Elders, some who silently carry the trauma, congregate in the space to watch their children and grandchildren live a life that they had to sacrifice. How long did it take for them to heal? I reflect on this while congregating in the space with them; listening to the plaza’s iconic sound of children laughing in the midst of an innocently chaotic battleground of noise poppers exploding at their feet. Just nearly 7,000 miles away from them, are children just their age, losing their innocence to war.