To Belong

As human beings, we have an inherent desire to belong. Whether it is to a country, a community or a companion; belonging plays a huge part in who we are, and who we develop into. Look around you: modern day society depends so heavily on this very principal. Cliques, colleagues, clubs; each social group feels a loss of identity and comfort when faced with a loss of surroundings. They fail to take into account those who really have lost their identity and have no power or entitlement to retain it…

Rarely in life you find yourself faced with a surrounding that fills you with a crushing feeling of gratitude and guilt, like a ton of liquid cement poured straight into your heart. These moments make you weep, make you reflect, make you realise, that actually the life that you were dealt really isn’t as doomed as you so often believe. I had one of these realisations when I was crouching on a pile of gravel, with a shovel being thrust under my nose and a bunch of excited Thai school girls whispering and giggling at us “farangs”. It was cementing time again. As the empty buckets got thrown down the line, I began the relentless job of digging, filling and passing until my back broke in two and the unbearable midday sun saw us craving the sparse shade dotted around the playground. I stared in disbelief at the young girls in their thick jackets and long trousers as they worked like oxen, merrily chatting and making light of their labour, as they contributed in the long line of pupils cementing the new school football pitch.

There was something different about these kids, something awe-inspiring and remarkable that made this group of privileged Thailand-trotting students on their “Gap Yah” sit back on their finest Jack Wills and be well and truly humbled. You wouldn’t necessarily know by looking at these children, but their backgrounds and lack of human rights mean they will never be able to leave their village, never mind travel to the other side of the World at eighteen…

E Hartley

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