Collecting keeps refugee hopes alive

Before a violent civil war forced him to flee his home, Yemeni refugee Abdillahi Bashraheel had two hobbies: long-distance walking, and coin collecting.

According to a press release issued by the United Nations Refugee Agency, Bashraheel fell into the habit of walking long distances when he was a surveyor in rural Yemen. The hours spent walking in the heat to scout the path ahead was a form of meditation, he said, adding there is “blessing in movement.”

As far as coin collecting goes, the 63-year-old said he does it because he “admires … strange things.” However, Bashraheel is currently stuck in a refugee camp in Djibouti – far from his favourite hiking paths and without his collection of “thousands and thousands of coins” – because of the civil war in his hometown of Aden, Yemen.

Despite these dire circumstances, he continues to walk – “twenty kilometres a day,” he told Amira Abdelkhalek of the UN Refugee Agency – collecting discarded objects and oddities to decorate his tent and a small garden at the Markazi Camp, in the Horn of Africa. Here, Bashraheel and his new collection are earning some recognition, serving as an inspiration to fellow refugees and encouraging others to keep some of the passions and routines of home.

“I escaped from death, from the bombs and from hell,” Bashraheel said in the press release, adding he left behind a large family with many brothers and cousins. “My life has turned upside down, and as a result of the circumstances, one loses one’s mind.”

As he waits to see if his life will turn right-side up, Bashraheel said he will continue to walk and collect.

“At my age, all I want is to live in peace. Beautiful things make people happy, and they make me happy.”

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