‘Lost Generation’

Burmese children in the refugee camp

We hear people talking about the danger of a lost generation in refugee crisis. It is as if the refugees are the different group of people as us. However, I believe that they just need the chance to regain control of their life.Thus joining RIJ was such an exciting opportunity for me to contribute in supporting these refugees to live in an environment where they won’t be hindered by lack of food, poor sanitation and other necessities.

During my research, it was shocking to learn that children and teenagers of my age form the majority as according to the UNHCR, 80% are children alongside women, hence the label ‘lost generation’. I felt ashamed of myself complaining about the piles of homework stacked in front of me as many teenagers my age in these countries, don’t even have access to education.

Unfortunately, even at this moment, many people are being displaced, and more and more children are losing the opportunity for education thus I believe support for refugees is vital. For example, according to the UN, more than one million Iraqis have been displaced by the fighting over the past month and are trying to flee their homes due to the threat of civil war and militancy.

Refugees aren’t the only ones affected as those who return back home face an uphill battle whether they are returnees or internally displaced. Tens of thousands of Iraqis who were once refugees in Syria between 2003 and 2011 are now returning home, thus bringing the number of Iraqi internally displaced persons (IDPs) to roughly 2.8million. Just like refugees, the Iraqi IDPs are extremely vulnerable and live in constant fear with limited access to shelter, food, and especially education. This continued problem has forced children to drop out of school and seek for job to support their family thus the label “Lost Generation” still haunts them.

However, I would say that this term lost generation is temporary, as we can prevent the next generation from living in the same situation. As Sherazade Boualia, UNICEF head in Syria, emphasises, “Education is absolutely central to the future of all children.” It is possible to support these children to build their future and flourish through donating or participating in activities that raise funds which what we,at RIJ are doing.

During my visit to Chiang Mai last winter, it was delightful to hear from an immigrant mother from Burma who was able to send her child to a nearby local school. It seemed like they were regaining hope. Like this, I believe we can avoid the tragedy of a lost generation. By creating a world where every child and teen has access to education, maybe just like us, they will have the chance and luxury to worry about their last minute homework.

Yunji Hwang, RIJ Intern 2014








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