Home杭州桑拿 › All Blacks star Sonny Bill Williams ‘ignorant’ of refugee crisis before Lebanon visit

All Blacks star Sonny Bill Williams ‘ignorant’ of refugee crisis before Lebanon visit

“I know no-one knows me over here, but there’s a few people that know me in Australasia and I just thought, people are naturally good people”: Sonny Bill Williams. Photo: TwitterAll Black Sonny Bill Williams says spending time at a Syrian refugee camp in Lebanon has made him realise how “ignorant” of the refugee crisis he was.

The sporting superstar is currently visiting a temporary settlement in Faida, Bekaa Valley, working with Unicef to bring awareness to the conditions Syrian children and families are living in after escaping their war-torn country.

After spending the first day of his whirlwind visit to the camp with refugee children and seeing the reality of their lives, the cross-code sportsman spoke about the life-changing experience.

“I came here and what I’ve heard, what I’ve seen, I’ve just been shocked and it’s just made me realise how ignorant I was,” he said.

“The thing that really touched me was, coming here, I didn’t really know what a refugee was.

“I mean, I knew what a refugee was but did I really know? No, not until I came here.

“It kind of hit home, how ignorant I was.”

Lebanon, which shares a border with Syria, has given shelter to more than 1.2 million refugees since the Syrian conflict began five years ago.

Williams met with some of the children affected by the crisis who had been forced to flee their homes amid the violence.

He spent the majority of his day with a 12-year-old girl named Fatima, learning about her life at the camp and visiting her school at the settlement which is a temporary structure made from tents. Sonny Bill Williams @[email protected]杭州龙凤论坛m/VIfej8Hyfn— UNICEF New Zealand (@UNICEFNZ) December 8, 2015

Fatima escaped to Lebanon from Syria with her family two years ago.

She had been left traumatised after seeing her best friend die in a bombing while they were walking together back in Syria.

Music has helped her overcome the horrific experience, and she has since created a support group with other girls in the community.

“We kind of clicked straight away,” Williams said of the girl.

“Half-way through the day, she told me she loved having me here and she really opened up about a few of the stories she had encountered. SBW talks with teenage boys at Beyond Association Lebanon about sport @[email protected]杭州龙凤论坛m/2rE2WBuwfo— UNICEF New Zealand (@UNICEFNZ) December 8, 2015

“It would shock me if a normal 12-year-old back in New Zealand or would tell me these stories, but based on the situation that she’s in, it didn’t.”

Fatima took Williams to visit the temporary structure she calls home, where she lives with her parents and four brothers.

The camp is set up on private property and the family told Williams they have to pay $US250 ($347) in rent each month for their land and tent where the kitchen doubles as the toilet.

Williams also spoke with Fatima’s teenage brother, who labours long hours each day to earn money for the family as their father is too sick to work. See how children live. @SonnyBWilliams goes inside an informal settlement in this frank video diary: https://t杭州龙凤论坛/RoMAOJHRMa#SBWforUNICEF— UNICEF New Zealand (@UNICEFNZ) December 8, 2015

The experience left Williams, father to one-year-old daughter Imaan, feeling emotional.

“It’s conditions you wouldn’t want your worst enemy living in,” he said.

But despite the family’s circumstances, what surprised Williams most was the resilience the family showed.

“The amazing thing through all of this, I could relate to the similarities, how they are as human beings and how we are,” he said.

“You can see how much the father and the mother love each other, and how much they love the kids and vice versa.

“You could see the kids just wanting to be kids, joking around, laughing, but you could see how much they miss their actual home.”

Williams said hearing the stories and seeing the camp up close had shown him how out of touch the rest of the world was with a crisis that had forced more than two million people to become refugees.

“We’re so lucky where we live, but we’re so out of touch,” he said. “Everyone’s mindset is made to feel that refugees are a problem, but it’s more than that.

“They’re human beings too. They were forced from their homes.

“Everyone is fighting over who has to take them on, it’s like everyone’s reluctant to do that.”

He hoped exposing the realities of life in a refugee camp with the following he has gained from his sporting success would help change the perceptions of refugees.

“I know no-one knows me over here, but there’s a few people that know me in Australasia and I just thought, people are naturally good people.

“People have goodness in their hearts … surely those people who see [the situation here] back home in and New Zealand, it would change a few of their mindsets, how they see refugees.” Please watch tv3 at 7pm to hear the story of these young men struggling with life as refugees @TheStoryNZpic.twitter杭州龙凤论坛m/yuBZvsVbPC— Sonny Bill Williams (@SonnyBWilliams) December 8, 2015

To donate visit https://www.unicef杭州龙凤论坛.nz/sbw.


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