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Essential Lens: Analyzing Photographs Across the Curriculum

Forced Displacement: Human Rights and the Struggle for Social Justice Repercussions of the Loss of Coherent Community and Culture

Resettled refugees must remake their lives in new settings far different from their homelands. Refugees face the trauma of forced separation from family, friends, and homeland; difficulty covering basic needs; anxiety about their lack of control over their future; financial uncertainty; social marginalization; feelings of loss of dignity due to dependence on welfare and social agencies; and the stigma and negative perceptions of refugees in host countries, among other issues. Refugees’ inability to find employment, compounded by language barriers, can often lead to depression. This is especially the case for male refugees coming from patriarchal societies where familial expectations fall heavily upon them.

According to the Cultural Orientation Resource Center, in general terms, the Syrian society is patriarchal, and everyone is under the protection and authority of the oldest man. Women are believed to be in need of protection, particularly from the attention of unrelated men. The fear of sexual violence from other refugees or host country nationals may cause refugee women and girls to stay home, only venturing outside — such as to go to classes or other appointments — when accompanied by other family members.

Violence is a major and real problem for female refugees. Refugee women are extremely vulnerable to sexual assault and exploitation, including rape. Displaced women may also be coming from countries where they had little or no access to education or job training, and they will require special programming to help them overcome these barriers. Refugee youth may lack stable housing, or face cultural, linguistic, and educational barriers, which means they are often not in school or employed.

Religious services have been shown to help refugees cope and provide a sense of community. According to the UNHCR, “Praying was the first resource to deal with emotional distress by providing them with peace. Religious practices and structures helped to reconstruct a social network by meeting others and providing participants with information to access work or to obtain practical support.”

Non-profits such as Refugee Transitions develop programs to help refugees in their new countries. For instance, refugees created a narrative cookbook through which they told their stories.

In addition to faith-based organizations and resettlement programs, the Internet can also play a vital role in helping refugees to maintain a sense of community connection. Being able to check the news from home and communicate with other refugees can have a tremendous impact on well-being. In recent years, aid organizations have recognized the contribution online communities can have. For example, REFUNITE offers online profiles similar to Facebook, where refugees can search for lost family members.

In helping adults to become comfortable in the new culture, young people make a real contribution. Children are immediately immersed in the new culture through the school system and can help older family members navigate in the new setting. They work as “interpreters” of the cultural habits and norms in the new country. They often are the ones to introduce other family members to the Internet and social networks.

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Essential Lens: Analyzing Photographs Across the Curriculum


Produced by Oregon Public Broadcasting. © 2015
  • ISBN: 1-57680-905-6