Stories of Change

Amir holds up a pillowcase that he made.

An estimated 30 million children in our world are refugees. That's more than the entire population of Texas.

A chance to develop a new skill – in a land far from home.

No matter where you live, one thing is always a top priority for parents: raising happy, healthy children in safety. That is just a universal truth of parenthood.

Imagine how bad things have to be, then, to send your child away from home for his safety. Imagine the heartbreak that a mother and father must feel, knowing that they can no longer protect their child from the violence around them. Imagine the desperation that comes with the feeling that anything else has to be a better option than what is happening at home.

Amir* fled from Wardak Province in central Afghanistan because his parents feared for his safety amidst civil and sectarian violence. He was just 13.

First, they sent him to Kabul. From there, he traveled a route that is popular among the smugglers that hundreds of Afghans pay each year to help them flee. His journey took him to India, then Malaysia and eventually to Indonesia. When he arrived in Jakarta, a man met him at the airport like the smuggler said would happen. That man took Amir straight to a UNHCR – the UN Refugee Agency – office, told him to register for asylum and then vanished.

Amir was surprised to be suddenly alone in a land far from home. The UNHCR staff, though, weren’t surprised at all. They are used to this routine from the smugglers. They arranged for Amir and another child traveling alone to stay in a boarding house near their office. After a few days, Amir moved to a CWS-sponsored group home for unaccompanied or separated refugee children.

Those first days, when he lived in the boarding house, were scary like his journey had been. Everything was foreign and new. That’s one of his favorite things about the group home: he no longer feels alone. When talking about the staff at the home, he says, “They are so kind and friendly, and I can talk to them personally like a friend, and they always encouraged me to go to classes.” The CWS homes in Jakarta are safe havens for kids like Amir to join classes and programs, get healthcare and, most importantly, make friends.

Speaking of classes, Amir has found a new passion. Yes, he enjoyed his English and computer classes, but his favorite is a tailoring class called “Linen for Life.” This course is run by UNHCR and a local organization called Indonesia for Refugees. Its focus is turning recycled materials into tote bags, floor mats and t-shirts. Amir is set to get his basic level certificate soon when he completes the introductory class, and then he will advance to more intricate projects like formal shirts and backpacks. He says, “I had not done tailoring before, of course, even though it is a respected trade in my country. So, when CWS staff told me that I was accepted to the program I jumped at the opportunity. Now I can’t wait to start learning how to make more difficult items.”

Sadly, Amir is just one of an estimated 30 million children worldwide who were forced to flee from their home countries in search of safety and dignity. In addition to our programs and advocacy work on behalf of refugees worldwide, we’re proud to be able to offer nearly 200 children like Amir in Jakarta a safe place to live –  and some joy to make the best of a bad situation.

*We’ve changed the name to protect the identity of a young refugee. That’s the same reason we aren’t showing his face in the photo.