Wednesday, 8 July 2015

The story behind #TheOtherFoot2015

I remember a few things from that day. I remember feeling a little tired because I was up late the night before working on the plans for our delegations' national presentation. I woke up a little too late that morning, I was late for breakfast, and also managed to miss the brief about the morning plenary. I wasn't exactly sure what was happening in the main hall of the Fuji Maru that day, but as I sat there, a little tired and a little hungry, I had a feeling it would be a pretty important day.  

Most days were like this on board the Fuji Maru, where I was a delegate representing Fiji, for the 23rd Program of the Ship for World Youth (SWY). 

For 3 months, I lived on board a ship travelling Japan and the Pacific. I was surrounded by hundreds of young people from at least a dozen different countries, and everyday we had seminars, plenaries or small workshops on human rights, leadership, justice and social change. It was as incredible, as it was draining; and the opportunities to learn and be inspired on board the ship, were only limited by our need to rest.

Living out on the ocean for that long, I had expected time to move a little slower, but it didn't. There were so many things going on and simply not enough time to do it all. Most of the time, I was on a sugar and coffee high, stuck in a perpetual state of exhaustion and informed wander.

That morning, I was feeling a little anxious. By nature, I am an anxious person, but that particular morning I remember feeling anxiety about not having enough rest, skipping breakfast and being unclear about what exactly was going on. As I found my place to sit on the floor in the Hall of the Fuji Maru that day, I had made up my mind, that the start of my day would determine the rest of my day.

I was wrong.

This day would actually turn out to be one of my most memorable days from my experience with SWY. That morning, I got to hear Fajer Mufeez, from Bahrain, share her story. 

Fajer spoke with so much heart and sincerity that morning that it was easy for me to feel really connected to how she felt about her work. That morning, she shared stories about how young children had lost their homes, their brothers, sisters and their parents to war. She shared stories about young children who died because they were starving or too cold, stories about young children who have never really known peace or happiness.

It was heartbreaking to hear of the struggles of innocent children; their pain, their loss, their vulnerabilities, their realities. Without even realising, Fajer had taken me from the floor of the Fuji Maru, to a broken down building in the Middle East, filled my eyes with dust from the bones of innocent children, chilled my spine in the cold nights children prayed in, and blew my mind with hidden land mines that tore families apart. 

I was angry, I was scared, and I was confused. Her story struck me in my heart because I realised, here I was in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, on a cruise ship, so far removed from it all; Safe. Fed. Clothed. Alive. 

In that moment, this world and this life didn't make sense, it was cruel, unfair and unjust. 
Before I could fall deeper into this cycle of disgust I had about the world, I was rudely awakened by this overwhelming sense of guilt, with having to have lived this life. 

I felt guilty because I never had to go to bed hungry as a child. I felt guilty because I never felt so cold at night it brought me to tears. I felt guilty because I never found myself in any real physical danger growing up, and most of all I found myself feeling guilty because I had been blessed with this life that I was born into.

It’s a dangerous thing to feel guilty about something you had zero control over, and its even more dangerous giving into that guilt. Fortunately for me, that sense of guilt quickly transformed into a call to action I felt deep within my spirit. 

My life is a blessing, yes. Therefore, my duty must be to live a life in service to those that have been dealt another hand, to those that have gotten the short end of the stick, to those that could do with a little help.

Towards the end of her talk, Fajer asked us a question.

"What if the shoe was on the other foot? What if it you were one of these children, scavenging for a meal, looking for a warm place to sleep at night, or praying for death as an escape from this cruel world? What would you hope for? Whom would you hope for?" 

Those questions spoke to me, and I knew I had to live and lead a different life. I could choose to be ignorant, and live my life pretending the world was a just place to live in, or I could live a conscious life, and just as Fajer served in her community, serve in mine.

This talk that Fajer gave, was just one example of the things that have been revealed to me, to nudge me onto the path that I am on. 

I have taken that moment, and moments like those, to start this blog and begin deeply thinking about ways in which I can transform this world that I live in. I hope that by using storytelling, writing and photojournalism, I can encourage people to reflect on their lives, and their roles in society, in this lifetime, and in this world.

I recognise, that I have been blessed to enter this world as I am. I was born into a supportive family that loves me, I have been given opportunities that have allowed me to explore life in whatever way that made sense to me, and I have been allowed space and opportunities to nurture learning and a curiosity for knowledge. I am continuously encouraged to dream, and when I look for them, I can find support to help me realise those dreams. 

By entering this world at the time that I did, into the family that I did, into the gender that I am, this geographical location, and the culture that I identify with. I have been allowed certain privileges that make my life a little easier. 

My health, natural abilities, socio economic status, ethnicity and gender have allowed me opportunities that more than half the worlds population, don't get. I am blessed and privileged, and I acknowledge that. 

I could use this to my advantage and build a good life for myself, or I could embrace these blessings and use them to serve others and live my best life!!

Recently, I've been reflecting on one of my favourite parables in the Bible, found in Mathew 25:14-30. It’s a great story about talents and it shows us a few things;
  1. In order to taste success, we need to work hard and smart! We shouldn't be allowed all these blessings and provisions, and not use it to do good work.
  2. We will be given exactly what we need to make molehills out of mountains and fulfil our greater purpose.
  3. We are not created equal. Humanity is full of diversity, acknowledge that and plan your next steps.
  4. Know the value of your work and who it is it you honour! If you live to do work that makes your heart sing, and if doing that enables you to live your best possible life- live it! But know whom it is your work glorifies.
  5. We will be held accountable! Do what you can while you can, wasted opportunities are wasted blessings.
Generally as a person, I'm very reflective, I think a lot about my life and my purpose in it. I ask myself what I need to do, to live my best life. How I can use my talents, and how I can acknowledge my privileges, in a way that enables me to do more good in this world.

And I guess, that is why I created this blog. #TheOtherFoot2015 is a part of my process in finding my way to be of better service to people. With my writing, I hope to understand my story, and use it to better understand the world I live in.          


With this blog, I hope to emancipate my dreams, my truths, my hopes and my mind. 

With this blog I hope to bring attention to the multiple truths of Pacific Islanders living in a time where you can be both contemporary and traditional, or neither.

Somewhere down the line, I eventually hope to provide mentoring support for young Pacific Islanders who also want to realise their own dreams, and if I can figure out a way to sustain this dream of mine, so much the better. 

I know it’s going to be a lot of hard work and for right now, this is my first step towards achieving this dream. I understand the road ahead is uncertain, but I hope to be as honest as I can be, about my process of working towards this dream of mine. 

I anticipate some failures and set backs, but I welcome them as much as I welcome the little victories and the learnings! Hopefully, in honestly sharing this story about my journey, I can help another Pacific Islander pursue emancipation.

All in all, I hope to live a life that makes my heart sing, because at any given time, the tables could turn and the shoe could be on #TheOtherFoot.


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