From Migrant to Helper: Adel’s Story

Lamia Topic | January 5, 2022

Adel celebrates being granted asylum alongside his colleagues. He’s in the front row, draped in the Bosnian flag that our team gave him as a gift to mark the occasion.

“I arrived in Bosnia and Herzegovina three years ago. The road took me through all of Bosnia and Herzegovina, to finally reach Bihac. I didn’t know the language; I didn’t even know where I was. At the bus stop, I listened to other people’s conversations, people like me and my at a time seven-year-old son. Passengers. Refugees. Migrants. I heard one of my compatriots say something to the driver that I did not understand: Vikic. I thought it was a place in Croatia. I looked at my son, approached the driver, and said Vikic. We traveled for about 30 minutes, and then I saw others getting off the bus. I went after them. It was cold and it was starting to rain. We have found shelter in an abandoned house. My son got sick; he had a high fever. I decided to seek help from people who lived in the house next to the one where I slept. I had no idea that it would bring me here, that my life would change completely. God’s will and destiny, nothing else!”

This is how Adel, CWS cultural mediator who currently lives and works in Bihac, begins his story. As he himself says, his story is similar to many that can be heard every day. But what makes him different is the desire to stay and live in this country. Namely, during these three years, Adel continued to live in Vikici, a small settlement about twenty kilometers from Bihac, on the border with Croatia. He was accepted in the community, the local population helped him start his life. They gave him the house where he is currently staying, provided him with financial support, and helped him get legal aid. Adel has become a family man again in the last three years, he married a local woman. His son began a formal education, they learned the Bosnian language together and today they consider Bosnia and Herzegovina as their homeland. Adel is an agronomist by profession and decided to apply his knowledge, so he started farming in order to feed his family. In addition, Adel helped the local population on a daily basis, performing hard physical work, in order to contribute to the financial security of his family.

Adel and Lamia at work.

“I met Adel for the first time in February 2021 while together with the IOM Outreach team, as a CWS legal guardian, I visited the locations in the area of the city of Bihac where refugees and migrants were sleeping rough. Then, as part of an urgent appeal, we were providing basic supplies to these communities. At first, I didn’t believe he was a migrant. He integrated perfectly into the local community, we communicated in the local language, he told me that he was originally from Iran, an asylum seeker in Bosnia and that he spoke two languages, Arabic and Farsi. Everyone wanted to help him, and he was ready to help anyone who needed help,” remembers one of the members of the CWS team, Muamer Delic.

In May, when the CWS outreach activities started, CWS was looking for a cultural mediator who knows one of the languages of the people on the move. As Adel met the legal requirements, and in line with the mission that CWS has of helping people move and strengthen their integration into the local community, Adel became a member of the team. He assists members of the outreach team who visit migrant and refugee sites on a daily basis, as well as guardians of UASC in mediation and understanding the needs of the persons to whom CWS provides services.

“Adel is a great support for us, everybody loves him. His potential and humanity have been recognized by all organizations and frontline workers. Every day he voluntarily helps persons in health clinic during the communication with doctors. Adel is part of our family!” This is how his work colleagues Amra, CWS guardian, and Mehmed, CWS outreach worker, describe him.

If you asked him about his experience and what it means for him to be part of the CWS team, he would say, “My team! Our CWS! I am grateful for every opportunity that was given to me. All members of the team are great, we are all like one big family. They helped me when I needed help the most. In addition to giving me economic security, working at CWS also gave me many beautiful experiences and friendships. I expanded my little farm. Met a lot of new people. You gave me the opportunity to help other people, those like me. It’s a nice feeling to be able to give back the kindness that was given to you. I feel fulfilled. I have self-confidence again; I know that every new morning I will have the opportunity to help people in need. Thank you all!”

His life story has touched everyone who knows him. At the beginning of December, Adel was granted asylum in Bosnia, which is a big step in his process of building a secure future for himself and his family in this country. By his example, Adel gives hope to all who decide to build future in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Lamia Topic is a Child Protection Officer with the CWS team in Bosnia.