Survival of the Fittest: The Journey of Refugees (Series Part 1/2)

By Ashley Scarbrough – Guest Blogger


Ashley Scarbrough is a professional wedding and portrait photographer, as well as a photojournalist. She has traveled all over the world – across Europe, Latin America, and Central America.


Through her writing and her photography, she works to tell the stories of those often forgotten or overlooked. For more information on WrittenShutter, Ashley’s professional photography company, you can visit her website, or check out her Facebook page.


Reese Witherspoon recently starred in the drama The Good Lie as a woman fighting for justice. In the movie, which is based on a true story, she plays the role of a single woman named Carrie Davis, who reluctantly agrees to help four Sudanese refugees start over in the United States. During car rides, meals, and hours of job searching, she learns of their severe journeys. From that moment on, she is determined to help change their lives.
These young men represent millions of refugees. Recently, with their homes destroyed and children in hand, hundreds of families have fled their homes in Syria in hope of a better life in Lebanon. One day in 2014, these men and women darted across a minefield. One explosion after another burst from the ground in a cloud of dust and fire. Those who made it across the field found themselves greeted by machine guns firing through the smoke. The UN Refugee agency reported in 2014 that our world houses 51.2 million of these forcibly displaced peoples. For the first time since the post-World War II era, we have exceeded 50 million.

For many of us, traveling to another country stirs excitement with the thoughts of vacation. The smell of sunscreen and the feeling of sand between our toes release our minds into a daze. Yet traveling to another country stirs flashbacks of war and burning villages in the minds of refugees. Every day, thousands of parents and children flee their home countries due to racial, religious, and ethnic persecution. Many end up in crowded camps surrounded by barbed wire fences, and congested by the stench of burning waste.
Many suffer personal losses. Families take extreme risks for the possibility of freedom. Before entering into a refugee camp or another country, many of these families witness horrific scenes. This results in a loss of honor through abuse, a loss of innocence through witnessing the horrors of war, and even a loss of family members. Years of loss pass by, while these evacuees wait for an acceptance letter into a resettlement program.
As years pass by, many develop a habit of hopeless thinking. Women and children bear the possibility of rape during their treks across borders. Additionally, all travelers face the possibility of denial at the borders, only to remain internally displaced within their home country. While the smoke of burning villages soaks the skies of their home countries, they struggle with any hope of a future, opportunity, or job. This, in turn, results in exhaustion. Millions of these displaced peoples wait for an average of seven years in camps. Yet, many refugees make a home here for more than eighteen years. Living in a tent of plastic sheets quickly replaces the memories of a comforting home.

Life once smelled of rotten bones and dying dreams. Now, hope rises on the horizon, with a whiff of fresh rain and new beginnings. In The Good Lie, Carrie Davis offered to help these four boys find jobs after coming to the United States through the resettlement program. This program offers an opportunity for these families to have a new beginning. Currently, ten countries offer resettlement programs. Unfortunately,  resettlement programs accept less than one percent of these families. As reported by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the United States, Australia, Canada, and the Nordic countries serve as the main resettlement countries. While a life-changing experience, the resettlement program remains both challenging and rewarding. In my next blog post, I’ll discuss four simple ways that you can personally help alleviate the pain felt by refugees worldwide.


– A.S.



All photos courtesy of WrittenShutter.