WDP Victoria Retreat Reflections
Retreat Reflection by James Seow
I had some time to reflect on the volunteers’ retreat we attended last weekend and feel compelled to share my thoughts with you.
It’s heartwarming and reassuring to see volunteers and staff – people in my community – so passionate, committed and having strong convictions for an inclusive, just and fair Australia. I speak from my experience as a migrant. In this climate of “us versus them”, the Welcome Dinner Project is critical to building a culture that celebrates diversity and multiculturalism, where differences wouldn’t be looked at with trepidation but valued as a strength, an asset Australia can leverage to its social and economic advantage.
American sociologist Michael Kimmel said, “Privilege is invisible to those who have it.”
I believe this to be true.
When I moved from Singapore where I was a majority to Australia several years ago, I became a minority overnight. Many things I understood to be “normal”, “conventional” or “that’s-how-things-are” by way of race or status slowly began to dawn on me as some form of privilege. I think one has to move out of one’s comfort zone, live as a minority in a culturally different country, to appreciate what this means. Even now, from time to time, I still feel pressured to give up some part of me, my heritage, my roots, my identity, what I love and cherish, to live here. I understand this to be an inevitable part of living in another country. It also hurts to realise this. However, when I meet people who are open-minded and interested in learning and respecting where I come from, I feel included. This is important to “feeling home”. It is when “I am home” that I am able to give more of myself to my community, that I can make a positive impact, that I leave behind some kind of legacy before I pass on.
I will always remember the kind gesture of a new Australian friend I made in my first month of arrival here – he invited me to his Christmas party. I could count on the fingers of one hand my acquaintances at that time. Loneliness and a sense of vulnerability began to creep up on me as the year-end season approached. The party invite meant so much to me. A few years later, another local friend did a similar thing. She texted, “Come over for breakfast with my friends. You should not be spending Christmas Day alone.”
People like them make this world a better place.
People like you, the ones I met at the retreat, make this world a better place. Never underestimate the outcome of our tiniest action or speech. The smallest thing we give away can mean the biggest to the person receiving it. I understand with the ebb and flow of life, people come and go in any community and social movement. But I do hope that wherever we are, we would continue to leave this world more beautiful than when we first came.