Mark Fenton was LIRS’ Story Production Associate 2011-2012
For the past year, I have served LIRS as a volunteer through Mennonite Voluntary Service (more on Mennonites).
Sadly, my time with LIRS has come to an end. As with every transition in life, one asks a few questions.
What impact have I had? What impact has there been on me? Was this year a waste? Did I do any good?
I don’t think I have a lot of answers yet, but I can say for sure that this year was anything but a waste.
For every refugee I met, there are thousands more who have escaped unimaginable trauma and violence, and for every migrant or former immigration detainee I met, there are thousands more still in detention, or still struggling to provide for their most basic needs.
Each story I have encountered has left a mark on my life, and I will carry them with me. Every time I hear another story about encountering our broken immigration system, again and again I ask myself: What did I do? Does any of my work actually matter?
The stories of trauma and violence we encounter leave tiny scars. Trauma is something that will always leave a trail where ever it goes. We can’t erase its impression on our lives, our ideas, or anything else. But we can bare our scars to the world, saying “No more, never again.” After everything I have learned this year, that is what I can do.
That is what we can all do.
This narrative I have been told over and over, of trauma and healing in the lives of refugees and migrants, is something that can change the world. At the end of my time here at LIRS, the one thing I know is certain is that I will continue to share these stories throughout my life. They are something that has left a permanent mark on my life.
I’ve studied to become a media professional throughout my schooling and through my year as a volunteer. I’ve studied the power of stories and images. It is only through the sharing of this powerful narrative of trauma and healing that we can begin to write a new narrative, the narratives of refugees and migrants building a new life. A story without trauma, a story without violence.
My year as a volunteer has left this single impact on me: I want to see organizations like LIRS out of a job.
I don’t know when or even if that is possible. But every refugee and every former detainee I have met has spoken some truth to the necessity of building welcoming community around us, building together with our neighbors a new story that can sustain us through any violence, through any trauma.
I will always be grateful for this time at LIRS, for the friendships, and for the many lessons I have learned. To all of my colleagues, all of you champions for the cause of refugees and migrants, I thank you for your mentoring and wisdom, and above all your friendship.