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Special event shares stories of refugee life

Genesis was very proud to sponsor a special event at London's Conway Hall called 'Shelter from the Storm: Stories of Refugee Life' on Tuesday 21 March.The event brought together those affected by displacement, homelessness and conflict, to share their stories of loss, survival and rebirth.

Over 200 people attended to hear poetry and commentary from celebrated writers, performers and activists, all united in their passion to give a deeper insight into refugee life.   All proceeds from the event went to Refugee Action and other refugee charities.

What was an emotive evening in many ways was compered by comedian Jeremy Hardy.  He said that refugees displayed remarkable qualities of survival, entrepreneurial mindsets and the ability to hit the ground running.

The first performance of the evening came from poet JJ Bola, a former refugee himself, reciting his work ‘Refuge’.   His poem recalled his story of fleeing his native country with his family, expressing at the end that refugees were “all reaching for a place that they can call home”.

Booker-nominated novelist Linda Grant read an excerpt from her novel  ‘The Clothes on their Backs’, set in 1950s London and written from the perspective of a daughter of Jewish-Hungarian immigrants. The excerpt vividly described the struggle of her parents to keep themselves safe.

Intermingled with accounts that described the challenges faced by refugees, there was a success story from Izzat Shamroukh, a former Palestinian refugee who’d been given the opportunity to further his secondary school education in England, and later attend university.

Later in the evening the audience heard from Ugandan gay activist Aloysius Ssali, founder of the Say it Loud Community.  He shared how he sought asylum in the UK after facing persecution in his own country.

Amidst the familiar faces of celebrities was Stephen Mangan, who read a story written by the late British journalist A A Gill, about his journey to the Italian island of Lampedusa to report on the tragedy of 300 African refugees drowning in the Mediterranean.

What was an enlightening evening of mixed emotions came to end with a speech from Genesis Executive Director of Assets and Investments Jeremy Stibbe, who commended the event for “raising the profile of outsiders, so that we can work with people on the inside”.  Jeremy expressed Genesis’ support of vulnerable people and shared something that resonated with values that sit at the heart of Genesis: “We believe in opportunity and opportunity starts with a decent home.”

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