Malissa and her family fled religious persecution from Pakistan to Thailand in 2012 when she was only 12 years old. They left everything to go to an unknown world just to save their lives. Malissa is the youngest child in the family of five. It has been 8 years that Malissa has been searching for home, but she has not seen yet. She did not expect that life will be this hard as a refugee in Thailand.
With a soft-spoken personality, Malissa looks very cautious and unconfident. But after we started talking, we knew that she is totally different from what we first thought. She is an advocate! And she knows what she is doing and why.
“I woke up every morning telling myself, ‘I am living a different life. I could have been another person with education and a good future if I am not a refugee in Thailand.’” Malissa has been eager to study and wanted to determine her own life. She knows her life would be a different story in other country where refugee rights and human rights are recognized.
“I was able to finish Grade 10 and GED test. I want to be a psychologist. But I can’t pursue my dream here without documents. I have been stuck and already wasted 5 years. We, refugees, can’t say anything. We can’t express or call for equal rights. We only keep all the problems and I am being burnt inside out. We are also a human. Why they treated us like we are not a human?”
When asked about home, she said “I never have a home. I would say that It’s not even in Pakistan or Thailand. It’s true that I was born in Pakistan but we did not have religious freedom. We were attacked by our own relatives and majority. It affected us and forced us to flee. In Thailand, though we have religious freedom, but we don’t have freedom of expression. We are not respected here or treated equally. We can’t even live with dignity. I feel like refugees are like street dogs here. We are not welcomed. Discrimination is out there.”
“For me, home is a place where I am free, respected, loved, and accepted. It’s where I feel equal, strong, and comfortable, where I can live in peace. For now, I’d say it’s a church, the moment when I pray to God.” She always holds her pendant and pray when she feels down. This pendant is very important for her as it has given her strength and confidence. It’s not the pendant itself, but her strong bond with religion that she feels like a home.
Malissa loves drawing and arts and she also draws an ideal home where she wishes to have. It comprises of elements that a place can be called her “home”.