“It’s a heartbreaking job, but you get used to the pain”.


 

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I interviewed Kimiko Kuramotto, she has been a volunteer for ACNUR for almost 12 years and now recently, almost three years ago, she’s been promoted to Profile Programme Officer, although she still does some volunteer work. Kimiko Kuramotto is from Tianjin, China. She moved to Spain 15 years ago when she was only 21 years old. ACNUR offered her a volunteer job due to her nationality and her fluency in Spanish, English, Chinese, Japanese and American Sign Language. Her first volunteer work was in Kabul, Afghanistan.

She had to help out an internally displaced camp in Kabul during the Afghanistan war between the USA and Afghanistan. She described it as: –

“The most empowering yet saddening experience I’ve ever had, I couldn’t believe the amount of violence I witnessed, not from soldiers, not from war criminals, but from these internally displaced people, men would hit their wives, children would get abused from their parents, some guy slapped me just because he felt like it! horrible, absolutely horrible.”

She helped out for almost three years until ACNUR assigned her to refugee camp, it was located in Tindouf, Algeria. There were people from all kinds of nationalities, including a Chinese family that was being tortured by the Chinese government because they thought they were terrorists and working undercover for Japan. ACNUR sent them to Tindouf. They didn’t send them to the other refugee camps located in Spain, Greece, Germany and many other countries in Europe because the family didn’t want to. She described this experience as: –

“One of the best experiences I’ll never forget, people were so nice, I played with the children, I even taught them some sign-language, I would talk to the seniors and listen to all of their stories. I would talk to everyone actually. I spent 2 Christmases there and we had a big feast. Wonderful.”

From 2011 to 2013, she had been helping a refugee camp in Kiribati, located in Asia-Pacific. She didn’t talk much about it. She said that it was so saddening that she had to leave a few months before, she said she could wait to get out of that “emotionally draining hell”.

I asked her if she likes being a volunteer, she replied:-

“It’s a nice job, but it has its pros and its cons. But between you and me, it’s a heartbreaking job, but you get used to the pain.”

Lastly, I asked her personal opinion on how we can help out these refugees around the world, including the ones from Asia-Pacific, she deeply exhaled, and explained: –

“People really don’t care about refugees, the donations and volunteers are becoming even smaller, people turn their back on them. I can assure you if they were in their situation, then they would want people to donate and help out. People are becoming cold-hearted and even more selfish. Donations and volunteering even for 2 weeks are extremely helpful. Anything counts.”

She then explained to me how with her new position in ACNUR, she still can help out refugees around the world, especially in Asia-Pacific. She works in the area of Asia-Pacific in which she assists in the planning, implementation, monitoring and reporting of protection and assistance programming for refugees, internally displaced and stateless people in the Asia-Pacific region.

She was incredibly nice and even though I realized that some questions brought her back some bad memories as well as good memories, she never hesitated to give me a nice, complete answer. I definitely enjoyed my interview with her.

Kimiko, thank you! I hope to see you in a near future.

 

Written by Nannie Nino.

 

 

 

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