Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Lucky Ones: African Refugees' Stories of Extraordinary Courage

The Lucky Ones: African Refugees' Stories of Extraordinary Courage by Anne Mahon

"Anne Mahon faithfully captures refugees' voices with raw authenticity, imprinting their lives onto our collective memory." -Lisa Shannon, author of A Thousdand Sisters and founder of Run for Congolese Women

"Canada has thousands of untold stories of the immigrant and refugee experience. Here is a well-selected and well-told sampling, gripping accounts of what it's like to overcome horrific obstacles and to live the dream." -Tom Denton, Director, Hospitality House Refugee Ministry

"Reading this book will help us bridge the gap with the refugees and will make us better Canadians as we appreciate our good fortune at the accident of birth. This is priority reading as we live in an increasingly complex Canadian society." - Art DeFehr, former representative of the UNHCR to Somalia

"The book's shocking first-hand accounts of survival will cause readers to bristle the next time they hear someone cast refugees as "fraudsters" or "just someone here to take our jobs." And reading about parents who were forced to run for the border without their children - let alone their passports - will cause people to question the government's dismissive terminology of bogus and illegal refugees." ? The Catalyst, Citizens for Public Justice Publication

In The Lucky Ones: African Refugees' Stories of Extraordinary Courage, Anne Mahon presents a collection of personal accounts of heartbreaking loss, extraordinary bravery, and the resilience needed to begin again in a new country. Candidly told in their own words, the subjects reveal the uplifting truth of their unbreakable human spirit. A wide assortment of men and women ranging in age from four to 73 represent a variety of African countries and backgrounds. Their compelling stories span from experiences in their African birth countries to their new home in Manitoba. These inspiring insights challenge assumptions and encourage understanding.  All author proceeds from the sale of this book will go to micro-lending opportunities and post-secondary scholarships for the African community of Manitoba.

Anne Mahon's interest in telling the stories of African refugees grew out of her dedicated commitment to Canada's newcomers. She has been involved in a variety of community organizations and was nominated for the Lieutenant Governor's Make a Difference Community Award for her volunteer service. She lives in Winnipeg with her husband and three children. This is her first book.

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5The True Cost of Freedom
By Monique Lewis
In Anne Mahon's The Lucky Ones, a young Somalian boy is kidnapped and chained in a garage for 18 months, an Ethiopian reporter is forced from his home after exposing his country's corrupt government, families are separated during widespread genocides, loved ones die in refugee camps, and in spite of it all, they are miraculously saved. Some call it luck, others call it a blessing from God.

The 17 refugees' stories are not just about hardship, war and injustice, but of the innate human desire to survive at any cost.

What impressed me the most was that even though these men, women and children witnessed death and destruction, these traumatic events did not stop them from wanting an education. Some immediately picked up their schooling as soon as they reached a refugee camp. All were desperate to give their children a strong foundation that they can survive on. In Africa, it's not the clothes on your back or the home you live in that makes you great, rather it is the education you have.

"My dad would always tell my siblings and me, `I have no wealth to give you, but I'm going to make sure that you are educated. That will stay with you wherever you go.'" -Efrem, pg. 94

Their stories were also full of love and courage that knew no boundaries. The Lucky Ones recounts heroic acts of love and compassion in a culture built on a deep sense of community and necessity to help others, even at the cost of one's own safety and well-being. Now living in Winnipeg, Manitoba, each of the refugees give back in their own way from sponsoring other refugees, and helping them adapt to their new Canadian home, to raising awareness about the unnerving experiences African refugees have suffered.

The Lucky Ones breaks all slanted and ignorant stereotypes about the African refugee imbued in Western culture. Since reading this book, I felt more compassion for my immigrant neighbors and I'm curious about who they are, where they are from and what they have lived through. A big part of me feels guilty for the privilege I was born with and a desire to give money or make donations, but the best gift of all is to listen, which creates understanding.

"If we don't courageously learn about each other, we will find ourselves in the position of master and slave. We might be scared to call it that, but let's call it by it's name. As refugees, we continuously risk losing our identity. When we come here, to this new country we call home, yes, we come needy and weak, but we do not want to stay stuck in dependency on others. We want to become fully mature Canadians and as human beings." -Anonymous, pg. 163

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