Stories of Change


Farah sews in the common room of the group home where she lives. The photo has been blurred to protect her identity.

Safety, medical care and classes for a young refugee in Jakarta

Ten years ago, 17-year-old Farah’s home in Mogadishu, Somalia, was burned down. Farah and her family were still inside.

Farah was the only survivor. 

She was severely burned and spent a long time in the hospital. And when she felt well enough to leave the hospital, her journey was just beginning. She knew that in order to be safe, she would need to make the long journey that many before her have made (and many since). Farah made the long air, sea and land journey to Jakarta, Indonesia–as hundreds of children, teens and families have done in the past decades.

Once she made it to Jakarta, Farah lived in a Somalian community and felt a sense of peace. Unfortunately, the lingering effects of her burns and the stress of being in a new place on her own made her sick. With no money to afford a hospital visit, Farah’s only option was to bear the pain. Then another Somali refugee told her that she could register with the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, and explain her health situation. Farah was optimistic about getting help. 

Soon after she registered, the UNHCR referred Farah to CWS to live in a group home that we host for single women and girls who are seeking asylum or who are refugees. The house is call ASPIRASI, or Aspiration. At first, living in a home with so many women and girls from all different backgrounds was a challenge. Her housemates were trying to be nice and ask her about herself, but Farah remembers, “I had to keep reliving my past, and everyone kept asking me about my burns.”

So at first, Farah was just glad to be safe. But as CWS social workers helped her adjust and receive the medical treatment she needed, she began to feel more at home. Eventually, a social worker suggested that Farah may want to take some classes. She signed up for quite a few of them: English, Indonesian, math, science, computers and sewing! 

Today, Farah says she enjoys the classes. What she’s most grateful for, though, is to have a safe place to live and access to medical care and counseling. “I finally feel like I have a chance to improve myself,” she says. “While I still get anxious, I can better handle the questions and stares when I meet new people.”

Like all the asylum seekers and refugees living in CWS-supported group homes in Jakarta, Farah left her home country under duress and out of fear. And like her housemates, Farah hopes for a better life. The resilience and passion for a new life inspire our team in Jakarta every day. Through the Protecting Urban Refugees through Empowerment program, CWS supports activities and services, including counseling and basic health care, to help hundreds of people live lives of basic dignity and safety as they seek to sort out more positive and productive futures.