Stories of Change
Amal, at St. Andrew's Church, where she leads a weekly women's Bible study. Photo: Kirsten Fryer
As of January 2015, there were 15,000 Sudanese refugees in Egypt.
What Education Meant to One Refugee Mother
Amal* fled from violence in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan to find safety for herself and her three children in Egypt. CWS partner St. Andrew’s Refugee Services offers psychosocial support, legal assistance and education services for refugees and other vulnerable migrants in Cairo, her new home. As Amal describes, “I came here to ask for help. [One of the program directors] looked at our situation and immediately started helping. That day, when she first saw us…for three days I had gone without food for the kids.”
Amal’s was situation was assessed and staff worked with UNHCR to identify support that was available. “I restarted my studies. I started Arabic classes… They opened everything so I had what I needed,” Amal says. “This is what improved my situation, because I started doing lovely things I like to do, teaching my kids.”
Smiling, she reflects on the difference StARS has made for her. “Really, there was a change. When I arrived here, I didn’t know how to read and write. I had no previous educational background. Because of StARS, I joined college, graduated from there, and have started doing pastoral work.” In 2014, Amal completed coursework in Pastoral Ministry / General Ministry at the Petrescue Institute in Cairo. She now leads a weekly group of women on a voluntary basis.
Amal continues, “I became someone who gives support. I talk to women who have the same problems as I did. I rent an apartment and live there with my family and also use the apartment for meetings with women… I am very happy for that, because I am doing good things. The women have improved and progressed.”
“While in the psychosocial program, I was not well. I was thinking of suicide… I was always blaming myself, that I was the reason for all of this,” she says. “But now, I think how we are always together, one family full of hope, tomorrow will be better than today. This is the difference between our family earlier and now. We conquered all that difficulty.”
Amal and her family continue to face challenges. It is difficult to cover the needs of her children on her salary, and there was a fire in her apartment earlier this year. But Amal maintains her positive outlook and looks towards the future and to giving back. She wants to help other refugees who have lost family, to work with women in situations similar to what she experienced.
For refugees in Cairo where life can often seem hopeless, Amal’s words shed light: “Really, I am very happy. I don’t know how to describe my happiness. My kids and I have been helped…I hope to offer to others what they offered me. Frankly, I am thankful for everything here.”
* Name changed as a precaution due to general protection concerns for refugees living in Cairo.