Empathy: ability to understand and share the feelings of another. How do we achieve empathy for another person? I imagine in certain situations it is possible to share the feelings of another, but to share and understand the sufferings of a refugee, well, that is another thing. However, over the past year I have come to learn so much about these amazing people and I come to learn some things about empathy as well.
My trip to Africa, and to the refugee camps, completely changed my life. I will never be the same and my life perspective will never be the same. My eyes were opened as I saw first hand the life situation of so many.
It has now been nine months since my trip to Africa. I have pondered a lot about the trip, the situation of those that are displaced and living in refugee camps. Through all of this I have come to a conclusion; in this situation (and with many others) you can’t have true empathy. I was there in Africa, looking at these battered tents in the desert, yet I still couldn’t get it. I have no idea what it is like to live in a tent in the desert for five years…absolutely none. I have no idea what it would be like to be woken up by bombs early in the morning then to have to escape my burning village while women were being raped and men being killed.
With that said, I have found something so important and I believe it is a principle to truly live by, and that is to seek empathy. My trip to Africa did changed my life, but my life really began to change when I learned of Darfur, when I saw some amazing stories from this website and when I first tried to understand what was happening there.
We can’t put ourselves in shoes of a genocide survivor and fully understand what they have gone through, but it is so important to try. I believe seeking empathy is important for two reasons. Something happens as your try to understand another’s heartache. One, you become compelled to move, to do something. The more you learn the more you understand. The more you understand the more action you take to change another’s life. At the same time a profound change is happening to you. As you step outside yourself and serve others around you, your life is changed.
During the month of November, myself, and fellow Stop Genocide Now teammate, Eric Angel, will attempt to share this principle with you as we seek to gain a little more understanding about the life of a refugee. Our goals are to spread awareness about this cause and hopefully inspire people to do more. We hope to give you a little more understanding of the life of a refugee as we journal the effects of eating a 1,000 calorie diet for one month. We have tried to match the rations of a refugee as closely as possible. Our daily rations will consist of wheat, split peas and little amounts of sugar, salt and oil.
We invite you to take a moment and try to understand more about Darfur. Take some time to learn of this genocide, learn why it is happening, and who is being attacked. Learn how the government is involved and learn about those who are helping the situation and those who are hurting it.
Most importantly, take a moment to meet a refugee. This website is full of pictures and videos of the refugees. Take a little time to become personal with them and to be inspired by them. Learn their names, recognize their faces and hear their stories. They need you. They need your help, your sacrifice, and your voice and (I hope you can really get this point) you need them too. You may never meet these amazing people and your life paths may never cross, but you can give them hope and a future. You can save their lives, and as you do so, they will save your life too.
Follow Husna as she receives rations for her family of five. Jeremiah and Eric are basing their rations on Husna’s monthly food allotment.