Before we’re finished with January, I thought it’d be fun to present my list of things that inspired me this year. To begin with, I was going to present my “best reads of…” but felt like this would be more interesting…
- Zeitoun by Dave Eggers: the true story of a Syrian man and his family living in New Orleans at the time of Hurricane Katrina. When the hurricane arrives and the rest of his family leave town, Abdulrahman Zeitoun decides to stay behind to keep an eye on theirs and their neighbours’ homes. This book was produced as part of the Voice of Witness project that seeks to use storytelling to illuminate human rights issues.
To the newcomers from Syria: Welcome to Canada: The Toronto Star’s welcome message to the first wave of Syrian refugees they received in December. After months of unease in the European and American media over the subject of immigration, this stood out as an example of a country wanting to do things right. It felt right on so many levels: a warm hearted welcome to these families, naming the troubles they’ve faced, while at the same time challenging them to embrace life as Canadians. It also set the bar of hospitality for those receiving refugees.
Canadians have been watching your country being torn apart, and know that you’ve been through a terrifying, heartbreaking nightmare. But that is behind you now. And we’re eager to help you get a fresh start.
- The Other Hand by Chris Cleave: the story of Little Bee, a Nigerian Refugee who finds her life intersecting with that of a young widow in Kingston Upon Thames. A beautiful novel that documents the realities of life as a refugee, the effect that embracing people who are different from us can have on our lives, and that reminded me of the power of a story well told.
- Manifesto of a Doer: they may be simple or even obvious, but I enjoyed this concise list of challenges for people who want to effect change. Here’s one of my favourites:
Avoid easy deadlines. Deadlines serve you best when they are short, hard and, at first glance, impossible. Urgency gets things done.
- Fluent in 3 Months: a regular newsletter (and blog) that aims to take the fear out of language learning and encourages people to start speaking their target language from day 1. As a full time language learner, I’ve enjoyed getting regular tips on everything from language learning in general, to specific techniques and resources for students of Arabic.
- What ISIS Wants by Jon Foreman: a heartfelt appeal not to give in to the fear mongering of the so-called Islamic State.
- Red Moon Rising: the story of the 24-7 prayer movement, which began with a small group of friends with a growing desire to pray, and led to a movement of people praying 24 hours a day, all over the world. At times the story feels like something out of Fight Club, as the movement’s ‘founder’ happens upon groups he never knew existed.
- Refugees Welcome and United Invitations: while these projects may not be perfect (what project is?), I’ve taken great delight at seeing the rise of ordinary people doing extraordinary things to help refugees.
- Jeremy Corbyn breaks with tradition and uses his first Prime Minister’s Question Time to ask David Cameron questions from the general public.
- Money is to The West what Witchcraft is to Africa by Liam Byrnes: an interesting perspective on the similarities between how witchcraft is used to allay fear in Africa and how money is used to do the same in the West.
(Image credit: el7bara)