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#WorldRefugeeDay Reflection and Arts Retrospective by founder and CEO of #MeWeIntl Mohsin Mohi Ud Din
There is a saying that World War III will be the war of communications. Whoever controls the pathways for communication has the power to determine outcomes. In this Pandemic World we find ourselves in, the survival of our human race will depend upon communication.
There are three universal truths we must uphold related to how we communicate with ourselves and each other:
For more than ten years and in more than 15 countries, I have been working with ‘vulnerable’ and ‘marginalized’ communities to reframe communication skills and storytelling interventions as tools for psychosocial wellbeing, leadership development, and community engagement.
Our heroes from the Syrian refugee community in the Middle East, and creative youth and caregivers navigating violence and poverty in Honduras and Mexico, and youth in war-ravaged Kashmir have much to teach our world in this moment of quarantines, social distancing, financial falls, and closing borders. In the pre Pandemic World, the marginalized are unjustly portrayed as in need, at fault, weak, and helpless.
In fact, today, COVID-19 has unveiled how inequality suffered by one infects the freedom, rights, and security of all of us.
In the Pandemic World, the only constant is disruption, and those best served to teach the rest of us and help us learn how to navigate constant uncertainty and change are those the world has turned its back on — -the one’s they call ‘vulnerable’. While data shows that minority groups and communities impacted by inequality are at higher risk of illness and death from COVID-19, they are also under a higher level of resilience, creativity, and community-engagement — things our world on fire needs right now.
In listening and learning from these ‘vulnerable’ communities, here are 5 communications concepts and exercises to help fortify our internal and interpersonal communication during a pandemic.:
a. Lay down on the floor, take 4 deep breaths in through your nose, and exhale slowly through your mouth.
b. Listen to — — do not judge — -what your body is feeling and telling you, beginning with the head, moving to the ears, the eyes and shoulders. For example, is your head hot or cold? Full or calm? When you get to the heart, place the right hand on the heart, and feel the heart beat. How is it beating? Fast? Slow? Gradually move to your stomach and legs and feet.
c. After listening to your own bodies, write a positive strength-based message back to your body as you start your day.
d. Share your messages with each other as parents and listen to what your kids have to say.
6. Parents and caregivers should apply some of the above practices with their kids. Children’s routines, school, friend networks are now broken. This break in routines and lack of positive social spaces will result in more tantrums and weaker emotion regulation. Talk to your kids about what changes they notice and feel in the world around them, and establish new routines. The worst thing to do is to communicate with our children as if everything is normal. Be real about our world being a different one that it was last year. Try beginning each day with a body scan exercise with your kids, like the one mentioned above. Another narrative tool is to have a prompt on sticky notes saying “ I wish my family knew…”. Have your kids fill out and complete the sentence at the end of each day, and allow a pathway for empathy and non-judgmental communication.
In our work with refugee and migrant communities with #MeWeIntl, we drive home the conviction that, ‘the stories you tell yourself about yourself shapes how you treat yourself. And, how you treat yourself shapes how you engage with the people and planet around you.’ Earth is reminding our species in this historic moment how we are all interdependent — Me-We. The stories we tell ourselves — as a human species — will shape how we treat each other and our planet for generations to come.
As policy makers and pundits attempt to normalize this pandemic through reopening economies and borders, how will we as individuals, neighbors, and communities ensure we see, feel, and do differently than before the pandemic? The fate of people and the planet — the story of us — depends on it.