Elham (not his real name) was born in Ghazni, Afghanistan to a working middle-class Hazara family. His mother was a dressmaker and his father worked for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. Elham enjoyed a childhood that was more comfortable than many Afghan children’s until his life changed suddenly when his father died. With her husband’s passing, and without his protection, Elham’s mother decided that Afghanistan was not a safe place for her family to work and live, so they immigrated to Iran, where their minority (Shia) Islam was the majority practice and they would be safe, at least, from religious persecution as many Afghan Hazaras are in their own country. However, Iran proved to not be the haven they thought it would be. While not in danger or religious persecution they couldn’t work, study or receive any sort of identification cards because they were, in fact, illegal immigrants. Elham was determined to help his mother, so he found work as a cleaner in a company – even though he was just a young boy. The family got by for quite a while; but, after six years, Elham and his family were deported back to Afghanistan. Feeling certain that Afghanistan was still no place for her Hazara family, Elham’s mother decided to send him away for a chance to find a better life somewhere else.
And so Elham began the long, dangerous journey to Indonesia, arriving in September 2016. Even though he was registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, it took two months of living rough on the streets until he was able to move to one of the CWS-hosted group homes in Jakarta, where Elham feels safe – for the first time in a very long time. And, despite the simple life, Elham says, “I’m happy. Every day I try to learn something new and I have made so many friends. The Social Workers always encourage and help me … so I can be a successful person in the future.” In addition to motivating CWS staff, and the supportive home atmosphere, the chance to join vocational education and training is great for Elham, who is now learning to be a mobile phone technician in a 15-day course organized by a local partner organization, Dompet Dhuafa and the UNHCR, Cibubur.
Elham and his classmate started off repairing older model mobile phones and worked their way up to repairing more modern phones. “Step by step we learned about all the [parts and functions] of each phone; and, eventually we started to repair Smartphones!” Elham was the top performer in his class and received his Certificate of Completion – and a four-month internship at Cibubur! Now he is refining his knowledge on continues improving his repair skills. Because of his own success and hopefulness, Elham hopes that more practical programs like the one he just took will be offered in the future, “I’m hopeful that UNHCR and CWS will create similar programs, which help refugees like myself have a more optimistic outlook for our future.”
While, by law, Elham cannot work for pay in the Indonesian economy, he is excited to share his phone repair skills with the other refugees, especially those who do not know how to repair and cannot afford to replace their phones – which are a life line to their families back in their home countries in central Asia and east Africa. As for the CWS team members who work with Elham, they are proud of his accomplishments and grateful for his spirit of optimism and gratitude, too.
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