Stories of Change

A farmers market in Cairo. Photo used for illustrative purposes only.

A brighter future for a young refugee in Cairo 

**TRIGGER WARNING: This story is about someone who survived torture as a child. 

Helen* fled her home country when she was 15 to avoid the mandatory national military service. As she was leaving the country, the group she was traveling with was attacked by traffickers. She was captured and held for two months until her family could pay her ransom of more than $6,600. During that time, she lived in unsanitary conditions and was physically and sexually assaulted. 

Once she was released, she made it to Cairo. She was still facing physical and psychological scars from her captivity, and she didn’t feel safe in the new city. A neighbor recommended that she contact St. Andrew’s Refugee Services, or StARS. CWS financially supports many StARS programs, such as legal aid, education programs and support for unaccompanied refugee children like Helen.  

Helen went to the drop-in clinic for unaccompanied refugee children. The StARS team quickly realized that she needed care urgently because of her ongoing trauma. She started talking to a counselor regularly for emotional support. Her caseworker worked with the United Nations team to make sure Helen could be registered with the UNHCR ahead of her scheduled interview time and be officially recognized as a refugee. Once she had that legal recognition, the team helped her with her initial interview to be considered for resettlement to a third country where she would feel, and be, safer. Her resettlement interview was recently granted. 

The team from the StARS Direct Assistance Program stepped in to help make sure Helen had food and hygiene products, and she joined an education program. When she dropped out of the education program due to a health condition, her caseworker helped her get the care she needed. Helen also joined other classes and youth activities so that she could meet other young people from her home country and build a sense of community.  

Today, Helen is doing better. She isn’t as withdrawn as she used to be. She is working towards the day when she can support herself and feel emotionally healthy. While she waits for resettlement, the StARS team will be there to help make sure that she knows she’s not waiting alone. 

*This is a pseudonym, used to protect the identity of a refugee child.