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Success stories: refugees redesign lives against all odds

Despite his conditions of living as a Syrian child refugee, Ahmed* (name changed for protection) runs the World Marathon Challenge in Iraq to protect the health of other children. This motivational success story has been shared by Save the Children Organization, working with refugee children around the globe.

Ahmed like thousands of other Syrian children had to flee his home when the conflict started inside Syria. Now Ahmed has taken refuge in a camp on the northern Iraq border.

Winters are tough for these children as they are living in dry, freezing conditions in refugee camps. Many don’t have necessary winter clothing, blankets, sweaters etc. These children are in desperate need of proper food, clothing, education and health and trauma care.

“Ahmed attends Save the Children’s programs at the camp – where he plays, learns and begins to recover. As hard as his life is in the refugee camps, he knows that there are children around the world who need his help to survive. That’s why Ahmed was one of the hundreds of Syrian refugee children who participated in our World Marathon Challenge to protect the health of little girls and boys who are at risk for preventable life-threatening illnesses.”

Millions of people left their homes as war or conflicts break out in their region. Life becomes impossible for common people to survive and the only way to survive is to take refuge in some refugee camp.

The hardships of the journey are mounted on every new step. Hundreds of people don’t even survive the dangerous journey. Those who are successful to find a refugee have new problems of food, health care and trauma of war to deal with.

All the same many courageous souls don’t lose hope and are doing some phenomenal acts to inspire others.

Survival through pandemic

“Fourteen-year old Maya (name changed for protection) is a Syrian refugee who fled home with her family in 2013. She now lives in Za’atari camp in Jordan and proudly advocates for the rights of other children in the camp,” reports Save the Children.

“Since the outbreak, Maya and her family have been quarantining in their home to protect themselves from the virus. Although she doesn’t leave the house and has stopped going to school, Maya has been able to keep up with her lessons. Through the TV, internet and WhatsApp, she’s continuing to learn—and advocate!”

Maya actively participates in Save the Children’s ‘Coaching for Life’ project. Being a part of this project, she is learning about advocacy.

“A girl is the most vulnerable [person] in a family,” Maya believes. “She is always quiet and patient. She cannot defend her rights, or express her opinions. For example, when her parents want to buy something new for the house, they consult her mother, her brother and her father, but no one ever asks her.”

Maya is advocating for issues that influence girls like her, including child marriage and child labour.

“We started initiatives, we gave out brochures and we organised awareness sessions for parents,” she shares.

Winning the legal status and work permit

Asylum Access Organization shared an inspiring story of a refugee who after gaining the legal status of a refugee in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Isaac had fled from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Tanzania. However, refugees who don’t have the legal status of refugee are in constant fear of arrest, detention. Thus any source of income is a rare possibility.

Asylum Access helped Issac with the legal procedure and the rest is the motivation of Isaac to survive with dignity.

“After obtaining the permit, he found a job working as a cleaner.

Formerly a truck driver, Isaac aspired to accomplish more and with a few of his fellow workers, he began to participate in a lending group… Every month, each member would contribute TZS 90,000 (roughly $53) and one person would receive TZS 600,000 ($352).

When it was Isaac’s turn, he took the money and invested in a mobile phone business, buying a few phones and selling them on credit around Dar es Salaam.

As his capital increased, he was able to start selling in other locations.

Today, Isaac has expanded his mobile phone business and owns three M-pesa (mobile money transfer) shops as well as a motorcycle taxi. With his peasant permit, Isaac was able to obtain a business license, open bank accounts to manage his earnings, and get his driver’s license.”

Understanding refugee experiences

“When you hear a refugee’s story, it’s going to be very difficult for you to hate them,” says Mustafa Nuur, a former refugee from Somalia who resettled with his family in Lancaster, to UNHCR.

“In 2017, to counter the rise of negative rhetoric and to address lies and stereotypes about the refugee experience, Mustafa wrote an op-ed in a local paper. He found a great deal of support in his community, but he also received harassing messages from a guy named Mark.”

Despite all the risks Mustafa invited Mark for a coffee. Over coffee, they had a fruit-bearing discussion which helped them to find common grounds and became friends.

“Mustafa left that meeting with an idea: what if more people took the time to listen to refugees’ stories? He soon developed his social enterprise, Bridge, which connects local communities with refugees through dinner party experiences.”

Mustafa’s open-minded attitude had inspired thousands to attend the Bridge events and to understand the experiences of refugees.

Helping fellow refugees

“If we believe, we can achieve. We can be anything on Earth we want to be,” shared Pihcintu Chorus with UNHCR.

“On World Children’s Day, the Pihcintu Chorus of Portland, Maine released their new song, “Somewhere.” The Pihcintu Chorus has a unique make-up of refugee and immigrant girls from around the world.

Most of these young women have fled war, violence, and have found a new home in Portland.

Besides singing and performing together, the chorus is also a safe space for its members to share their experiences, understand the new culture and practice their language skills.

Challenge as opportunity

“See the challenge as an opportunity,” remarked Anan Jakich, a Syrian refugee in Germany. Anan was a civil engineer in Syria but risked her life to provide peaceful life to her children.

Josie Le Blond, a freelancing journalist, writes in her article (German school helps women refugees hone tech skills) for the UNHCR blog. Anan reports about her experience.

“We were just looking for safety… I couldn’t live with that fear any longer, or the worries about the future. I couldn’t sit and wait for my family to get into worse difficulties.”

Despite all fear, just for the safety of her family she took the dangerous boat journey to Europe and finally arrived in Germany. But she was restless until her family rejoins her in safety.

She was disappointed to learn the lengthy refugee legal procedures. However, she didn’t sit lame in an asylum, instead, she learned the German language, and did whatever internships available, learned computer skills to win the success for their waiting family back in Syria. Her family was able to join her after 18 months. She is now helping other women in social integration.

These inspiring Souls are in a continuous struggle to gain success. They have ambitious goals and are taking every positive step, no matter how small, towards their goal to live a dignified life in a foreign environment and unknown future.

They have to wait and seek the help of many non-profit organisations. Nevertheless, they are fighting back with strength and positivity. Such Inspiring stories are gems for people around the globe to stay positive and to focus on whatever opportunities are available to survive and re-build a safe life again. To start over after the fall is the true spirit!

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