Stories of Change

Azar at his desk at Forbes Magazine.

After fleeing for his safety, a prestigious internship for a young refugee in Jakarta

Azar* was born in the mountains of central Afghanistan. He always considered his village to be a safe place to live, but when he was nearing the end of primary school, that all changed. A group identifying with the Taliban infiltrated his village. Azar’s family, who weren’t sympathetic to the group, fled for their safety. “In September 2018, I took a bus to Kabul, where I applied for a passport,” he says. “One short week later, I was able to leave for India. Then I traveled by a familiar people-smuggling route to Malaysia by air, then through Indonesia by land to Jakarta.”

“I didn’t know exactly where I was going when I got on the plane in Kabul, and I didn’t know exactly what I would do when I got to my journey’s end,” Azar remembers. His smugglers knew, though, and dropped him off at the UNHCR office in Jakarta to register as an asylum-seeker. Because he was a boy traveling alone, the UNCHR connected Azar to CWS almost immediately. We run five group homes for about 175 child refugees and asylum-seekers in Jakarta. These are safe spaces where children can rest, heal and figure out their next steps.

Once he got settled into his dorm room, Azar got started learning new things. He signed up for most of the classes that we offer: Indonesian, English, hair cutting and computer skills. That’s where he found his calling: coding. It wasn’t exactly in line with his dream of becoming an artist, but he loved it. He found that he could sketch and make digital drawings. He did so well that one of his teachers offered him an internship at Forbes magazine!

“I got an email about the internship from Forbes. But I did not know how prestigious the magazine is”, says Azar. “I had never heard of this magazine, so I asked the Social Workers about it, and they explained how special this opportunity was.”

The Forbes office is in the heart of one of Jakarta’s bustling commercial areas, and Azar says he was intimidated at first. “I looked so different! I was a young kid in a polo shirt and slacks, and everyone else was wearing suits,” he recalls. Once he got into his office, though, he settled in and started his first assignment. He sketched the portrait of one of Forbes Indonesia’s co-owners that he was assigned, and then transformed it using Adobe Illustrator. Just like he had learned in the group home.

Now that he has proved his skills, Azar primarily helps other employees. “I am usually given a picture to edit, which I know how to do pretty well,” he says. “So, even though this is all new to me, I am learning by doing–something I never dreamed of as a child in Afghanistan.”

The CWS team is so proud of Azar and how well he’s doing in his internship. We’re grateful that we can offer classes and recreation activities for children and teenagers so that they can feel a bit more settled.

*We’ve changed the name and blurred the photo to protect the identity of this refugee child.