Para Paheer (Paheertharan Pararasasingam) was born in 1978 to an impoverished Tamil family in northern Sri Lanka. He was just five years old when civil war erupted and engulfed the country for nearly three decades. Imprisoned and tortured because of his student activism, Para was forced to flee to India in May 2008. In October 2009 he boarded a tiny fishing boat bound for Australia. Following rescue from the ocean in November 2009, Para was taken to Christmas Island Detention Centre where he began a pen-friendship with Alison Corke. On his release in 2011, Para moved in with the Corke family. He has recently been granted Australian citizenship. Alison Corke is a freelance writer, living in Apollo Bay. A career in advertising and publishing taught Ali the importance of telling a story in an honest and engaging way, encouraging people to have the confidence to share their lives. The author of several books on advertising and public relations, Ali also wrote books for The Body Shop and British Airways, and has produced many publications for non-profit organisations. The increasing demonisation of innocent asylum seekers and the plight of refugees encouraged her to join Rural Australians for Refugees. In 2009, extremely concerned for the plight of the victims of a tiny boat of asylum seekers that sank in the Indian Ocean, she had no idea that a few months later she would become pen friends with Para, one of the young men from that boat. Their friendship grew and on his release from detention on Christmas Island in 2011, Para moved in with the Corke family.
'An uplifting collaboration that reveals how random acts of
kindness can turn a story of trauma, torture and tragedy into one
--Michael Gordon, Award-winning journalist and former political editor of The Age 'Amid the polemics of the political debate about asylum in this country, it is too easy to forget that, at the very heart of this issue, lies not some political theory, some abstraction, but people. This issue is not about boats to be stopped nor borders to be protected, it is not about 'illegals' jumping queues nor national security. It is about people. People like Para.'--Ben Doherty, Immigration correspondent, The Guardian, former South Asia correspondent, The Sydney Morning Herald 'One of the most touching elements in this extraordinary story is Para's chance friendship with an Australian grandmother who takes him into her family. This book is a collaboration between them and a powerful example of how people can really connect across cultures, class, age and gender to do good where politicians and bureaucracies have failed. I highly recommend it.'
--Frances Harrison, Author of Still Counting the Dead: Survivors of Sri Lanka's hidden war 'Para Paheer's lived experience combines conflict, suffering, courage, tragedy, compassion, and hope. It depicts events that are predatory and abominable, even as it celebrates the humane and good. It must be read, precisely because it is heart-wrenching; because the discomfort it elicits may goad us to abandon apathy, embrace sympathy, and thereby discover our common humanity.'
--Professor Neil DeVotta, Department of Politics and International Affairs, Wake Forest University 'This is a deeply personal and moving story of human resilience, patience, compassion and gratitude. May it move others to empathy and provide insight into the desperate circumstances which force a person to flee their home and become a refugee. Accounts like these are so important in changing Australia's inhumane immigration policies.'
--Senator Richard Di Natale, Leader of the Australian Greens 'Ali's voice is calm, factual, avoids hysteria, and is all the more compelling for this. I've read other stories of trauma, such as Anne Frank's Diary, The Rugmaker of Mazar-e-Sharif, and I am Malala. This book belongs up there with them.'
--Dr Bob Rich, writer and psychologist 'This is a fascinating and important story for those interested in Australia's migration policy. It is told directly and openly by someone directly affected and it will without doubt have a big impression on all who listen. Do not miss Para's story.'
--Dads on the Air 'I have read quite a few refugee memoirs ... this one is gripping, and it's amazing to think that it all began with a kind-hearted gesture - Alison Corke becoming a pen pal to a refugee in a detention centre. I recommend that you read the book.'
--Lisa Hill, ANZ LitLovers