Blog

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Blog on romanmajcher.eu is a place where I write about events or experiences that are important to me for one or another reason. It is a space where family and friends can get themselves updated on my latest undertakings, and where occasional readers can learn about issues which are important to me. Enjoy the read!


Setting off For the trip to Poland and Canada

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After a busy August and beginning of September, I am starting my holiday. Today, I am spending my day packing, so that I will set off for the trip to Krakow tomorrow. I will be with my mother for a few days, and then I will travel further to Toronto to see Tahir and friends! Very exciting indeed!

As I start my trip, I am confronted with a new challenge. Someone appears to have stolen my identity and uses it to take bank credits on my name in Poland. Considerable amount of money has been stolen from me… Scary thing is that credits were taken long time ago, but I only found out yesterday. The lawyer is on it, and she has started taking steps to fix the mess, but it is extremely stressful, and completely ruined my finances for now. The lesson is, never trust your banks - they seem to be able to sell your personal details, which are then misused. 

Although setting off for holidays, I am not very happy at all. 

Supporting the people of Mindanao

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Mindanao, the southern part of the Philippines is the poorest in the country, and is ravaged by conflicts and multiple natural disasters. As you can imagine, this translates into various humanitarian crises, which the local communities suffer from. Essentially millions are affected in one or another way, and hundreds of thousands people lives are threatened. 

In order to ease the situation at least a bit, together with my colleagues we were looking at projects that we could support and aim at helping people cope with poor access to water, food, sanitation, shelter and education. While we realise that our support is a drop in the ocean, I am glad that we will be able to work with the affected communities in coming months! We are moving ahead with giving financial support to two projects for the displaced by the conflict - so that they have minimal life sustaining services available until the fighting stops and they can safely return to their homes.

Extensive travels in August and September

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Yesterday I returned to Bangkok from Tonga and Fiji but I am already packing to travel for Manila tomorrow morning. It is just one day at home - enough time to catch up with sleeping, re-pack, call Mum and friends, as well as reflect on the experiences from last few days. 

As usual, my trip to Tonga was related to a humanitarian catastrophe - this time caused by the cyclone (Rita) which hit the country around 6 months ago. Together with a colleague of mine, we went to visit the emergency and recovery projects that our organisation funded, but were implemented by Tonga Red Cross and local NGOs, and to understand how helpful our intervention might have been to the survivors of the cyclone.

The trip was very interesting, but involved some mixed feelings. On one side, our partners clearly did a good job and were clearly able to help thousands of people to stand back on their feet (rebuilding private houses, family rain-water catchment systems and restoring livelihoods of the family farmers), but on the other side, we realised that the overall system failed many of the residents too. The authorities may have restored electricity grids, fixed the roads, but let down some of the poorest families and many individuals to overcome their existential hurdles. Altogether we saw some families (supported by our partners) receiving decent boost to help them recover and thrive, but also learnt that the communities which were supposed to be reached by the authorities, were more often than not, neglected. Tragically six months since the calamity, some people still live in plastic sheeting tents, and literally struggle to find means to buy food. 

Like in many other occasions of this sort, the trip to Tonga prompted a great deal of doubts in my mind. Trying to rationalise why we chose a group of people over other group of people (given that there was no funds to help everyone) is a difficult process. Yet even worse is that we (the whole system, rather than just my organisation) was certainly able to help everyone, if all agencies responsible had acted in a more responsible manner (essentially, deliver on their promises and commitments). 

Now, as I prepare to travel to the Philippines tomorrow where I will be visiting projects meant to help the recovery from the devastating floods which hit Luzon, I am fearing that I may experience an uncomfortable deja-vu, with some individuals receiving help and others less so. 

In terms of ‘lessons learnt’, the most challenging task for us comes later: we all need to figure out how we do a better job in a future. Lots can be done with relatively little money - the trick is to work together with as little ego as possible. Wish us luck!

And here comes the link to the pictures from the trip to the Pacific.

Going to the Pacific

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After rather eventful and tiring few weeks, I am setting off on the road again. On Saturday, together with my colleague, I am flying to Fiji and the Tonga in the Pacific. We will be visiting the humanitarian project that we supported after the cyclone hit the island of Tonga last March. 

Later, after the visit to the Pacific, I transfer to Bangkok to repack and will continue immediately to the Philippines. The northern part of the country, Luzon is severely affected with very extensive floods. Again, together with my colleague, we will be visiting the affected communities to ensure that our support is well spent/used there. 

After the Philippines, I am going to start my holiday. All should be very exciting, as I am planning to visit my Mum in Krakow and then travel to Toronto where I will check on Tahir and visit my dear friends there! 

I will be reporting from various places, whenever I have a chance! ☺️

Free at last!

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A copy of today’s email update to friends:


'Dear Friends, 

Finally comes the message that I have wanted to write to you for a long, long time. Tahir is safe, sound and well in Toronto 🇨🇦🇨🇦🇨🇦!

Last weeks in Thailand were difficult, and the detention was very tough, it really was and we are very proud that Tahir cleared it with so much courage, grace, patience and dignity. Very well done!

On the other hand, the departure from Thailand was much easier (logistically) than expected. Here I would like to underline how wonderful and helpful were the staff members of the IOM (International Organisation for Migration). Not only they were professional, but extremely sensitive to the needs of their ‘clients’ (there were some other people, who were resettled with Tahir – on the same flight out of Bangkok). I have lots of appreciation and respect for them!

Next impressive anecdote was at the airport of Toronto. When the Canadian immigration officer asked Tahir whether he had ever been arrested or committed a crime, Tahir confirmed. A puzzled officer looked to his computer again, and did some more research. He then pushed back: ‘but our files indicate that you had no criminal record’. Tahir then explained that he had been detained by Thai immigration for being illegal in Thailand. When the officer heard it, he just smiled and reassured Tahir that it was not his (Tahir’s) fault and this was not considered a crime, but rather an act of abuse against his rights to be protected. He also asked him not to ever answer ‘yes’ to the question like that in the future (in posed again by anyone). In the eyes of Canadian law, Tahir was innocent and did not commit any wrongdoing! Isn’t this a wonderful story? One needs to love Canada! 

Another great thing is that as he got processed at the airport, he was handed over a document confirming that he held a coverage of the state health insurance. I need to admit, this really made my eyes teary. For the first time in his life, Tahir holds a right to free, comprehensive health care – something that many of us take for granted. How wonderful!

We already talked a few times, and Tahir is happy and recovering. He will soon start exploring his new city and country with his new friends and new friends to be made. Here again, I am very lucky, as I will have a chance to have a glimpse of how he is doing – I am arriving to Toronto to visit him – and his sponsors (my dear friends) on 11th September. 

I would like to finalise this happy message by once again thanking you for all what you have done, and doing to support us in Tahir’s journey to freedom. You have touched my (and I guess Tahir’s) life in the most amazing ways. Thank you! 

Tahir will now need to face new challenges – arranging his new life, becoming independent, getting a job, going to school... Some of these things will be hard, but above all extremely exciting and adventurous too! While I will update you occasionally (I promise, less frequently now 😉), you are welcome to directly be in touch with Tahir. Should you wish to do so, please get in touch with me for his contact details.

Warmest regards and hugs to all, 

Roman'

Tahir’s last weekend in Thailand

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We are not quite there yet, but very near. It is Tahir’s last weekend in Thailand. He is scheduled for his resettlement to Canada on Wednesday. Three more days of waiting to go… Can’t wait, and we all hope that the process will be smooth. Keep your fingers crossed, and THANK YOU for all the support!

Waiting is stressful

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All the waiting until 15th August arrives is stressful. I can’t wait until Tahir travels to Toronto. Still five days. I hate each and every day when he is in detention. It is very unfair that he needs to be there. 

On an exciting side of life, today I confirmed that I will be taking a week of holidays in October. The plan is to travel to Portugal and with Mum and my good friend from Poland. I am very much looking forward to it!

Last hurdle cleared

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Some good news today. We have just been confirmed that Tahir’s security clearance to leave the country (to be allowed to be resettled) has come through today. This is, in principle, the last official administrative hurdle that could prevent him from travelling on 15th August (at least, to the extent that I am aware of). Now, there is nothing left, but counting time down. Seven days to go!

The earthquake in Lombok of Indonesia has kept us busy. With over 100 people being killed, hundreds injured and ten of thousands homeless, we are trying to support the local authorities and Red Cross to mobilise resources to respond to the needs of the people. Sad times for people of Lombok and Bali - hopefully the recovery and reconstruction will be happening as smooth as possible.

Eleven days to go

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Destroyed (by cyclone) banana plantations in Tonga


The political mess with the judicial reforms in Poland makes me sick, disgusted and above all ever more disappointed with my own country. I am worried that things will get so bad that the powerful will corner themselves to the point that there will be no reasonable solutions to clean up the mess, and things will need to be solved by applying some radical measures. I have been wrong on some of the political pessimism that I have relating to Poland, and I wish so hard that I am wrong this time around too!

It is eleven days left for Tahir to leave the IDC and travel to Toronto. I still worry about him, but good news is that we are managing to visit him daily, and we manage to get him supplies of food and other goodies to make him as comfortable as possible while detained. The detention is not tough for Tahir only. Other detainees are seemingly far less comfortable situations. Most of the people do not get support that we are trying to provide to Tahir, and worse so, many do not know how long they will be detained, and whether they will ever be able to leave the IDC. Things in Thailand are bad these days. The police are extremely active these days in arresting ‘illegal’ migrants, and the refugees, although are not targeted become the 'collateral damage’. The police do not see any reason not arrest a refugee, even if officially recognised by the UNHCR. Those refugees who are caught are brought to the IDC, and they stay there indefinitely. They are not being deported back home (as Thailand committed itself not to deport UNHCR card holders - even if it does not recognise the card itself), but they are not left to carry on living normally and are kept imprisoned. Extremely disconcerting. 

In Canada, the preparations for Tahir’s arrival are ongoing too. Our friends in Toronto have already made arrangements to get his language evaluated by the governmental agency dealing with education. This will allow Tahir to get admitted to public educational institutions (suitable to him) free of charge! Fantastic news. The second great news is that our friends are making arrangements to register him with the health authorities, so that he can his health insurance. I am very excited about it, as it will be for the first time in his life that Tahir will be insured!

Back here in Bangkok, I am preparing for 2 professional trips. Right after Tahir departs for Canada, I am hoping to be able to go to the Philippines to follow up on some of our projects there (helping victims of severe flooding, and victims of forced displacement related to fighting in the southern part of the country). Shortly after the visit to the Philippines, together with my colleague, I will be travelling to Fiji and Tonga in the Pacific. Similarly, the trip is to ensure that the humanitarian intervention that my organisation has supported is going well (helping victims of the cyclone). While in Fiji, we will have some meetings with various organisations specialising in responding to disasters in the Pacific region. The meeting with these organisation is to discuss how we can better support their work. 

Seems like some busy weeks are coming. 

Happy Birthday!

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It is Tahir’s birthday today! It is bittersweet this year. He is detention - and it is a hardly any reason for celebration, or being happy - especially when taking to consideration that he is punished for daring to run for his life. Then, the wonderful news is that it is his birthday before he officially becomes the resident of Canada and has a chance to re-start his life as a resident with rights and obligations and without a fear of being harassed and intimidated by authorities or police! The sweet part of the ‘bittersweet’ is much more worth of concentrating on! Happy Birthday, Tahir! May it somehow still be a great day - even if behind the bars, and may you have a wonderful year ahead of you - in the new country, with tonnes of new friends, great opportunities and exciting adventures! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

It is still 18 days to go to Tahir’s departure to Toronto. Considering the circumstances, Tahir is okay. Many of us here in Bangkok have a chance to communicate with him daily. He seems cheerful and in good spirit, even if he is a bit tired due to sleep depravation (there is no enough space for everyone to sleep comfortable, so inmates need to take turns to sleep for a few hours, and then make space for other people to sleep). The inmates are friendly and they all spend their time by playing cards, and watching TV. They occasionally have a chance to exercise a little and play soccer at the IDC’s yard.

With regards to actual preparations for his departure to Canada, we are pretty much ready. Clothes and basic stuff to get him started in the new country is bought, and ready to be delivered to the airport, when he eventually goes in the middle of August. Tahir is also receiving his official 'Canada Orientation’ briefings that are delivered to him at the detention centre by the International Organisation of Migration (IOM) on behalf of the Embassy of Canada to Thailand. 

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