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Catholic Teacher Blog: Refugee voice of hope and resilience

Danielle Sherry  |  25 May 2017

The greatest thing in the world for social justice advocate and former refugee Isaiah Lahai is not prosperity. It is legacy.

'No matter how prosperous one is, when you die, you will only be remembered for a little while. Thereafter, people will forget about you. But when you sow a seed into someone’s life, that seed will live forever', he said.

Isaiah works tirelessly in his community by using his personal refugee story to educate and encourage discussion and reflection. He works with Jesuit Social Services visiting schools, parishes and the wider community for their ‘Just Voices’ Speakers Program.

'On the 23 of March 1991, a violent civil war reached my doorstep in Buedu Town, Republic of Sierra Leone. Close family members were killed, carnage and anarchy was everywhere. Nowhere was safe. Everyone was fleeing for their lives', he said.

In the chaos and terror of escaping, Isaiah was separated from his parents. 'I walked for three days and three nights to reach safety in neighbouring Guinea. Mercifully, I was reunited with them.

'Everything around me was a failure. I searched for hope, but hope was nowhere to be found.' He said as he described the 14 horrifying years, ordered from one refugee camp to another.

Sadly Isaiah’s refugee journey is not unique, but his willingness and determination to be a voice for refugee rights and justice is powerful.

Since arriving in Australia in 2006, Isaiah said his desire is to be a legacy driven citizen and contributor to Australian society. 'I came to realise that Australians are willing to walk with you, in your shoes, if you share your story with them', he said.

In telling his personal story, Isaiah incorporates powerful messages of resilience and hope. Year 6 teacher Jo Howell, St Finbar’s Primary Brighton East, wrote:

'Our students were amazed at Isaiah's story, and the resilience and determination he showed to overcome the cruelty and heartache he suffered. He inspired all of us with his incredible courage and his desire to help others. Even now the students are still talking about him and we often pray for him in our daily prayers.'

Just Voices Speakers Program

Along with Isaiah, Jesuit Social Services has a number of social justice speakers from diverse backgrounds, communities and cultures willing to share their personal experiences and messages with workplaces, schools and parishes through the Just Voices Speakers Program. If you would like more information, please download their brochure here.

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