Blog by Anette Trulsson Corda, a WU employee based in Paris, France.
Ever asked yourself what can I do to stand with refugees? It can seem overwhelming… where to start, what to do. But I’m convinced that whilst no one can help all, everyone can do something.
My something started when I signed up for a volunteering activity in Paris last summer, attending a refugee welcome picnic with my daughter. We met Hura and Mehdi, who had just recently entered a refugee center outside the city and were seeking asylum. This courageous and talented young couple could not go back to Iran since the regime considered their liberal art to be offensive and they feared for their lives. They had left everything behind and were terribly sad and worried. I knew immediately I had to help, and this was the beginning of a beautiful friendship that would impact my life more than I could have ever known.
Western Union’s Chain of Betters* initiative immediately came to mind. I nominated Hura and Medhi for a ‘better’ that would provide art supply to allow them to continue with the art that was their trade, that kept them passionate and hopeful. I was so happy when I found out that their ‘better’ was granted and Hura and Mehdi got to work producing new materials. Their French teacher at the refugee center organized their first exhibition for International Women’s Day, and quickly afterwards they secured another at a Restaurant Gallery in Paris. More opportunities have followed through a network of higher education classes and mentors. They recently got accepted at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris, where they will be offered housing, possibilities to paint, sculpt and meet other international artists. Simple art supplies have created a true Chain of Betters* for these humble and exceptional talents.
And what have I learnt? Being a refugee does not define Hura or Mehdi or anyone else. It’s a temporary situation that obviously does not diminish any of their talent, ambition and eagerness to evolve, progress and share. I have learnt that by harnessing talent and empowering different backgrounds, win-wins can be created. I have learnt how the beauty of cross-cultural art can and should enrich my culture here in France. And most of all my family and I have been inspired by amazing people we can call true friends. My son has been asked to write about integration in school and it was not hard for him to choose what to write about.
We believe opportunity knows no borders, and through our Chain of Betters initiative, Western Union is creating opportunities for refugees across the world. Many ideas have already helped refugees. Find out more about these projects and how you can submit a nomination of your own to stand #withrefugees.
*No purchase necessary, subject to Terms & Conditions