Interview With Peace Rebel Kadio ... The Man Behind "Home ... Far Away, So Close"
Kadio Sa Ali is a Liberian Peace Rebel who is working for a humanitarian firm called Samus Social in Brussels, Belgium. He tried very hard for asylum seekers to have a new life. One day, he had found what he believed would be perfect in helping his men to find inner peace. He contacted us and requested a meditation workshop as we talked earlier in "Home ... Far Away, So Close". Kadio gives us insight on what he believes and his inspiration for restoring inner peace absent from the asylum seekers’ mind.
First please introduce yourself.
My name is Kadio Sa Ali, I come from Liberia, and I knew about the Peace Revolution website, program, through a friend, who sent me, who forwarded me the website and said, this is a very interesting peace program, it would be a good idea for you to see their website and how you could partner with them, since I was already managing an organization into peace building. And this is how I knew about the program.
What do you do in Belgium now?
Currently in Belgium I’m a social ... a companion social, I don’t know how to say that in English unfortunately. And I work with asylum seekers. My work entails helping asylum seekers, get recreational activities, provide meals for asylum seekers, help them to identify lawyer to help make follow up on their cases, and also help them in their day-to-day activities.
What are asylum seekers?
Asylum seekers in Belgium are mainly are people who come from war or very poor developing countries, coming to Belgium to be able to express their problems their worries they have in their country, for either security reason, humanitarian of health purposes. And these people are either given status as refugees and they are given humanitarian protection in some cases.
And are there a lot of asylum seekers?
There are a lot of persons coming nowadays in Belgium to make asylum seekers. And the center in which I work currently goes to 150 asylum seekers. Which are only men from 23 countries around the world.
Can we call them refugees?
No, at this point in time we cannot call them refugees until their case has been processed and decided by the home office.
And how long are they staying in Belgium in your center?
In my center the maximum time they stay is for two months. And the minimum is one week.
And what is your job in helping them at the center?
Yes, as I said my job in helping them is first, help them to provide meal, help in identifying lawyers in cases where they need lawyers to be able to prepare their cases, help identify educational opportunities, like orientation for language courses and also take them out to make tours and recreational activities, including sport or just walking around.
And what are the problems that you have been facing when dealing with asylum seekers?
There are a lot of problems in dealing with asylum seekers, but to name a few – we have problems of frustration from them, because most of them leave their home with high expectation and come in to Belgium to find themselves in a different situation, and leave them very frustrated. Another aspect obviously is also another issue of language and communication. You have more asylum seekers who come here that cannot communicate at all. For integration purposes they also have problems at times. We are faced with communication with them, some are Arabs who do not speak English or French – so we have to find our Arab translators. Another aspect is obviously health issue, health issues I could say, maybe the reason could be because of the trauma or the stress they are doing through. On a day-to-day basis there are more asylum seekers coming for medical issues who don’t sleep, some don’t have appetite, some have heart problems. And because of this more people go in for either the options of smoking or drinking as a remedy for it.
Does that create some problems in the Belgium society?
It creates a problem in the Belgium society, the Belgium society they already have problems to manage as we have a lot of homeless people that they are trying to help and with this influx of immigrants coming too its creating more problems and currently as I speak to you, one of the major problem the government is having how to harbor or lodge these asylum seekers while their case is being processed. So in recent times, sometimes, a week ago, we had news that about 350 persons were homeless here they didn’t have room because asylum office never had somewhere to lodge them while their case was being processed.
I heard that you also invite psychologists to help with the asylum seekers. What do they say about that?
Asylum seekers have the opportunity in our center to speak with psychologists twice a week. And the psychologist comes twice a week. And listen to these cases of these people and provide basic therapy, which can either be in the form of medication or exercises elsewhere to be able to overcome the stress or the trauma that they are going through while they are waiting for their process.
And what are the major problems that the psychologists mention?
One of the major problems that the psychologist mentions about is sleepless nights. Most of them don’t sleep. And observation we’ve had is because of the trauma they have had they take most of the day sleeping and at night they don’t feel sleepy anymore and that leads to more stress because they will get bored, and bored at night and in the morning you know they get a lot of headache and stomach and problems relating to that.
Why did you think that meditation could help with the asylum seekers?
I thought meditation could be a good help for asylum seekers because most of them do not make time to make a retreat in their lives, to reflect to concentrate, to also think of other ways to remedies to their stressful problem. Most of them go for the options of either drinking which just lasts for a minute or maybe five minutes or 30 minutes. And after the problem come back. So I feel that something with a peace-building activity, that is something that will help them relax and reflect, and meditate on their situation especially with an exercise that could help them relax and feel comfortable in life and get some hope could be good. So, when I read the website of peace revolution2010 and I was in contact with Miss Ping Ping, I decided to encourage her. I said your presence in Europe, Belgium especially Brussels don’t want to miss your team, please.
Ok, and after almost now we have about 3 days workshop already, have you seen the difference or result of the meditation workshop at the center.
I will speak of myself first as a beneficiary too and also a coordinator of the program here. I feel meditation is something for the few time, that I have been able to discover it, the 3 days, I feel it helps regardless of other stressful aspects, it helps also to build your confidence it makes you more relaxed especially if you happen to go to the services. And for the few that I spoke to that have attended the workshop, in the recent time for the two days, are saying that they are having positive impact, stress is reducing, they are seeing some joy coming back to them so I’m very wishing that this program should go on to be able to have more impact on this people that are in dire need of such sense.
Do you have a specific asylum seeker that has really impacted on the meditation that you would like to mention about?
Yes, I would like to mention an asylum seeker from Senegal, called Mr. Sy Lamine who is in his early 50’s-late 60’s I can say. He said, really, when he first saw the team he was motivated when he went to the first day session and practiced in his room he very felt comfortable in the morning, and he felt Dafalgan is not his friend anymore, at least for a few days to come. Dafalgan is the tablet they usually take to kill the pain, so kill the stress. So he is saying, with the few hours of meditation he has had after the first day session he doesn’t want to be a friend to Dafalgan.
Now that the asylum seekers who have learnt about meditation will be probably sent to different places – do you think this will also give impact, give some effects on their life, on the place that they would stay?
Yes, I think, regardless of this center being a transit center, people that benefitted, that are benefitting from this three days meditation session will be able to have greater impact on the larger population in other centers. Cause some have already promised that whenever they go out they will speak to other friends to do meditation services, so I think, people that have benefitted from these three days session will be able to carry the message larger to other centers that are not fortunate, and I’m really hoping that one day, it will be able to reach this larger group. To make an impact on a very large number that are lacking this wonderful information.
I have also heard that you are working 25 percept of your time with the center, are you also doing some other projects – could you also please talk a little bit about that.
Yeah, actually I work one week with some social asylum seeker center. And I’m also managing a peace-building program in Liberia. And the program in Liberia is also involved in peace education, and we have a series of projects. To list a few: we call a community peace program where we gather people into little groups of the communities and they address special peace related issues, for eg. Human rights, violence or any other issue. We also have another project called “sports for peace”. In “sports for peace”, we use sports in order to promote peace by gathering youth, and war-affected children in the community especially in the Monrovia zone. We also have a program called, “the life skills training” wherein we have war affected women, and single mother’s that come to the center to get other skills in either tailoring or building construction in order to be marketable in the day to day market job. And also in Ghana we have a very little program where obviously the organization is funded refugee camp wherein we work with refugees especially in where we provide capacity building training programs in the area of trauma counseling and peace-building.
How do you think the meditation will also be helpful in the projects that you are doing and that you are working with as well.
Yeah, I think meditation will be also a good program for our activities in Liberia and Ghana. I see with the meditation program in Liberia, it will help children to be able to concentrate especially those who came out of stressful situations because most of our beneficiaries are from [ a place ]. And women that are victimized either through rape or other means and during the civil war that are undergoing a lot of trauma issues that are going through on a lot of day to day stress – that have no time to relax to concentrate or get a certain moment of reflection on their life. So I see with this program these people will have the opportunity to have some time off their day-to-day life and reflect on positive things that build on their mind and their soul.
What else would you like to say?
Yes, I have my message for the peace revolution team. It's my joy and my pleasure to have discovered such wonderful vision and wonderful dream and I hope to be able to get in depth training, in depth orientation about this program to be able to spread this message to make it be able to grow more to the wider world to the larger population around the world. And I encourage all visionaries who created such an initiative to continue the rebel war and I’m hoping that we can reach and gather people with a compilation of everybody’s effort.