Exxhibition shows off plight of refugees

NOT a day goes by without Nyarai Lawrence thinking of her children left behind in her troubled home country.

NOT a day goes by without Nyarai Lawrence thinking of her children left behind in her troubled home country.

The 32-year-old mother of four from Zimbabwe had only planned to come to England for two weeks, but while she was here, her children and nephew were attacked in their home and she was warned if she returned, her life would be in serious danger.

Now the asylum seeker, who came to Ipswich last August, tries to occupy her days by volunteering to keep her mind off the fact that she does not know when she will next see her children.

She is among the 20 asylum seekers and refugees, who have taken photographs for an exhibition launched this week to mark the start of Refugee Week.

The photos she has taken represent the places here that have helped her cope, like St Mary's Catholic Church in Woodbridge Road.

Mrs Lawrence, who was once a supervisor in a departmental store, desperately misses her three sons, Lionnel, 24, Benson, 19, Paul Junior, 11, and daughter, Shaine, 16. She has also been separated from her husband, Paul, who was forced to flee to South Africa two years ago.

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She said: “I do miss my children. I cry most of the time. I cannot go back there because I would be killed. The children are not really safe at the moment. I am worried about them but I thank God they are alive. I do not even know where my marriage stands as we haven't been together for two years now.

“I came here for the graduation of my sister. When I left home I thought everything was ok but while I was away, my family were attacked. I got an e-mail from my neighbour who said I shouldn't come back because people were after me.

“I was really scared. Mugabe's government thinks if you leave Zimbabwe you are a traitor.”

Despite the new unity government, she is still fearful to go back but hopes one day, she will be able to return.

She added: “One day I want to go home and show my children the photographs I have taken of the places here.”

The exhibition, entitled Open Doors, was launched at the St Lawrence Centre, Dial Lane, and remain on display until Friday.

Lyndsay Grant-Muller, volunteer co-ordinator of the Suffolk Refugee Support Forum, said: “This exhibition is to give people from different backgrounds the opportunity to be reflective, and for them to actually have a say.”

If you want to volunteer, pop into the offices at 38 St Matthews Street, call 01473 400788, or e-mail volunteer@srsf.org.uk.

Are you an asylum seeker or refugee and have a story to tell? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

Lovemore Muzadziwas forced to leave Zimbabwe three years ago as he was an activist for the former opposition to President Mugabe's government, Movement for Democratic Change.

The 32-year-old who lives in Cambridge Drive, Ipswich, and was a former export director, said: “I was tortured. I do not know how much but it was enough times.

“I wanted a safe place to go to. I had to leave my wife and children because my life was in danger. Her passport was taken so she couldn't come with me.

“The same thing is happening to her now because of me. She was tortured about six months ago and has to move around constantly. “The pain of the world is on my shoulders. I am not carrying out my father's role.

“You have to try to get along with life. When things are ok, I will go back.

Kawa Hussein, 38, arrived from Iraq with his wife, Nafea, and their four children in 2001. He is currently training to be a lorry driver.

Mr Hussein says he doesn't want to return to his native country as he is happy here. His photos represent what is important in his life, like his religion.

He said: “I will be proud to have my work displayed. My family will come down to see it.”

Ari Ayad, 32, also came over from Iraq in 2002 because he needed to get out due to the “political situation”. He is still waiting to get a refugee status.

As he cannot work due to his status, he spends his time going to the library, playing sports and reading books. He took 700 photos, some of which will be displayed at the exhibition. There will also be pictures of him as a child.

Mr Ayad, who lives in Wellington Street, Ipswich, said: “I feel this is my home now.”