I am writing this on a flight returning from Kuwait where I have been examining for LAMDA. I’m not going to tell you about my week but I am going to tell you about an amazing young lady who lives there.
Emma Abdullah is 17 and when she was 16 she had a book published. She had come into the room to take her Gold Medal ‘Public Speaking’ exam and at the end gave me a copy of her book and said “I hope you will like this, I wrote it for all the children of Syria and it has raised $50,000 so far”.
I didn’t know what to say but I asked her how she had got published and she explained about the adults who encouraged and supported her. She said she was learning how to speak in public so that she could be effective on many speaking platforms. She had already done quite a lot and wanted, passionately, to spread her message.
“When a child speaks”, she said “sometimes people will listen”.
This is the way Emma introduces her book, ‘The Blue Box’. I hope it touches you in the way it touched me:
In March 2011, the Syrian civil war started. I didn’t understand the politics behind it. To me, it was a conflict like any other. I imagined that soon things would go back to normal. They didn’t. The war dragged on. Thousands of children were tortured and killed . Human rights were violated. I lost some friends. I have never heard again from some others.
I wanted to do something. I didn’t want to be a spectator. I wouldn’t be a spectator. But what can a child do? What can one child do to save another? What does a child do when nobody else seems to be doing anything? Is there something a child can do when nobody seems to care?
My thoughts kept drifting back to the question. I told myself I did not have the power to do anything. I had to leave it to someone else, to someone older, someone more influential, someone with the power. And yet. Yet it did not seem right. It did not seem right to do nothing at all. It did not make me any better than those who committed crimes if I stayed silent about them.
It was than that I saw it; a dark blue box with nothing on it but a few scratches and capital letters in red,
‘IN CASE I EVER NEED THIS’ I took my box down from it’s shelf and pulled out the first sheet of paper. My poem. I read to silently. Over and over again I read the poem of a child burying a mother. Suddenly it was relevant. Suddenly it had a purpose. Suddenly it meant something; it meant so much more than it had five years before. I rummaged through my blue box and found more poems and stories. They spoke to me in words they never had before and, at that moment, I knew I had found my weapon.
So here it is, here is my attempt at making a difference. Here are the stories I have written. Some when I was young and others several years later. Here is a little part of me going out into the world, hoping it will give a voice to those who do not have one of their own. Our words are our only weapon in this fight; it would be a shame to not at least try.
To everyone who will never get a chance to tell their story and in memory of the children of Syria, I want to be able to say I tried.
And did she do well in her exam? Well…. what do you think?