Helen Bamber Foundation, the Conversation: Creative Survival
I can now say that I have had a rare opportunity to see Emma Thompson in her true form. Shed of her acting skin, she is warm, candid, beautiful and extremely funny.
She spoke with passion, authority and grace, ensuring we all knew why we were there; to listen to the stories of people who had survived, creatively. Something Emma explains is the opposite of the Darwinian concept, but instead the survival of the kindest and most humane.
Emma Thompson in conversation with Lyse Doucet, TJ Birdi and Ceilia
Emma went on to host a wonderful and heart warming conversation about the work of HBF and how it has improved the life of Ceilia; a refugee seeking nothing more than somewhere she felt safe.
It broke my heart that she was explaining her plight to the wrong people; I know that people fleeing war torn countries are not here to ‘steal’ jobs or abuse the benefit system. Those who do need to hear this, would not have attended such an event and would not believe that people’s motives are altruistic. They would not believe her when she explains that she didn’t even know about the benefits on offer for over a decade living in England.
I wish I could have hugged her and make all the pain she suffered go away, tell her that she was loved. It’s something I have in bucket loads and she informed us she had to be taught to love.
The conversation ended with her informing us that she has a child and, through the support of HBF, is able to live a fulfilled and healthy life.
Stephen Fry with Humera
This conversation opened with Stephen narrating the beginnings of Humera’s story. Abused by men she trusted, robbed of her virginity and left to feel like she didn’t belong. Her community and faith meant that her marriage would lead to her death, knowing that her husband would deem her an adulterer.
Her only chance of freedom was to flee her country and attend university in the UK. Again, it was noted about the often mentioned ‘foreigners coming to steal the jobs.’ It angers me that someone who is having to escape an abusive home is then expected to defend themselves against the prejudice and stereotypes small minded people put out into the world.
There were issues along the way; visa denial and sexual harassment in the workplace before finding HBF. They helped her apply for asylum as well as give her one to one support with a counsellor.
When Humera joins Stephen on the stage, she catches us up on the successes within her life; managerial position, love away from abuse and the freedom, confidence and support to proudly declare ‘I am gay.’
The evening drew to a close with three musical pieces and the HBF choir were joined on stage by musician; Nerina Pallot.
Through the music, clients of HBF humbled us with their expressions of culture, identity and belonging. They got the crowd onto their feet for the final number; despite the harrowing stories, it ended on a blissful note.
Of course, this was all for a cause. The HBF relies on generosity and funding to continue to help make changes in people’s lives. Only, I don’t think this foundation just needs money, it needs love and support; things people can give for free.
How can you help?
- Head over to the website http://www.helenbamber.org/
- Follow @HelenBamber and keep up to date with their events and requests
- Help a stranger (you never know what it might mean)… Many of the clients who spoke talked about how a simple smile was able to make them feel like they belong.
- Consider a one off, or monthly, donation
- In the new year, I will be completing a sponsored reading/ viewing marathon and all proceeds will go to the Helen Bamber Foundation. Details will come in due course, but please promote if you can and get sponsoring when the page is up and running.