Last week I met with two former refugees who had gone through Nancy Callahan's hospitality training program and still work in the hospitality industry. One gentleman was from Afghanistan/Pakistan and the other from Myanmar (Rohingya). I met with them both together which turned out to be a bit of a mistake. I initially wanted to hear about their experiences navigating US and international immigration bureaucracies, paperwork, challenges they faced navigating this system and if they did it themselves or relied on other people to help them navigate these systems. It was a very eye opening discussion but I should have anticipated how this conversation could be something that in itself makes someone relive past traumas. I purposefully wasn't asking questions about why these two men had to flee their home countries as a lot of the training I was receiving for working with the children stressed that asking about why people had to flee can often trigger people into reliving past traumas. This "trauma informed" model of care assumes that participants have experienced trauma leaving their home countries and that as someone who is not a trained mental health professional it might not be in their best interest to spur those kinds of conversations. The journey after leaving one's home country is often another form of trauma and that's what I failed to take into account in this case. The gentleman from Afghanistan seemed very open to share his story (and his family of 9) and was able to do it without getting upset. The guy from Myanmar was quite the opposite. He's been in the US maybe a year or so and his journey is still very fresh in his mind. After leaving his country and transiting through several different countries by boat he ultimately landed on Christmas Island and was detained by Australian immigration and held on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea for 6 years. This was where his formal process of immigration began which included being beaten by guards, protesting his imprisonment with other detainees and speaking to hundreds of people (as he tells it) over the course of those years where people would arrive from various countries, agencies etc and all repeatedly ask him the same questions without giving him any notice that they were coming or even ask him permission to talk to him. His path through international immigration systems was wholly cruel and unusual punishment. I remember reading news articles about Manus Island and seeing some videos but it was barely a blip in the global news cycle here in the US. Ultimately this guy got a bit agitated as he worked himself up by recounting his story mostly unprompted. It made it hard to speak to both participants but I was able to have a basic conversation with each of them and plant the seed for a potential further meeting (separately next time). Both of them agreed to meet again expressed that they both very much wanted to. The meeting had gotten side tracked by the one fellow as he recounted his story and took over the conversation so the other guy from Afghanistan quietly texted Nancy Callahan to come in and politely interrupt so that the conversation didn't devolve further. He also had somewhere he wanted to go and he wasn't getting the opportunity to talk with me as much because the other guy had begun monopolizing the conversation. I can completely see how it all happened now. Ultimately I don't think it was a big problem for anyone but it did teach me a valuable lesson. I tried to ask some questions of them both that prompted them to think about what they might be getting out of working with me. I asked them "Why were they willing to talk with me and spend their time with me? Also, what if anything did they hope that talking with an artist/photographer might achieve for them? One responded he just wanted to help new refugees coming to America, here now at Heartland etc. He's very focused on the present. The other responded that he just doesn't want anyone to go through what he went through and that if there's any way he can say or do something to help ensure that was motivation enough. I've been thinking about this since last week. I'm going to message both of them to arrange second meetings shortly. I think there's something here and there was lots more we discussed regarding paperwork and such that I could tie in to other things I'm exploring at Heartland programs.