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“Little Afghan Feet” by Carina Okula

“In France, the laws about publishing the faces of children are very strict. On top of that it is necessary to respect the religious and cultural backgrounds of others.

During Wednesday’s visit to a centre housing refugees and displaced people, there were two little boys, refugees from Afghanistan, mixed in amongst the many nationalities.

Their mother was not comfortable to have her image taken knowing it would be against her husband’s wishes. When her children were a part of a photo with their new friends, the discomfort was evident on her face. So we took a photo of the shoes. The six year old in pink crocs, his 4 year old brother in blue. It’s what they have to wear on their feet these days. The boys thought it was amusing that we photographed their shoes and there were many giggles that followed the photo.

Their mother was gentle with such a soft, delicate aura about her, and whilst there were clothes, toiletries and fresh fruit for them, she was insistant they were ok. It’s been hard to sleep since then, thinking about her and those two little boys. Her husband was upstairs in their room – in a position where he is unable to provide the way he wants to for the people he cares most about in the world, he wanted to remain quietly hidden away.

The reality is that as refugees, seekers of asylum in France, they are not permitted to work for a minimum of one year. Their survival is dependent on the moments when they allow themselves to accept the generosity of people who care and help them. They don’t want to be in this position and would rather not ask.

Their only cooking facilities are access to microwaves. The brother’s dinner each night is the same – rice and pasta cooked in a microwave. Their adorable and sweet mother is nearly four months pregnant. If it wasn’t already heartbreaking enough, when asking the six year old if he liked being in France, his reply brought so much reality to their situation. He misses Afghanistan and wants to be nowhere but back there. So many in society overlook that these gentle folks have fled their homelands in order to seek safety, to stay alive. They’d rather be home in the land they escaped from and not dependent on strangers. They have memories of playing with friends, in the company of loved ones, enjoying a place that used to feel safe to them. They miss the land where the sky was a place where the sun shone brightly, before it became a destructive place of war.

These days, they’re surrounded by faces and voices they don’t know, nor can they understand, they miss the food that tasted good and smelled of home, the comfort of an extended family. And they want to go home to that place from once upon a time.

Let’s dream that one day again they will sleep in a bed where they only ever have beautiful dreams, they will feel safe and happy, and live in a world where the sky above them is filled with nothing but happiness.”