Azar (not his real name), was born in the mountains of southern Hazarajat in central Afghanistan. Azar always considered his village a safe place to live. But, towards the end of his primary school years, a group identifying with the Afghan Taliban infiltrated the village and Azar, whose family was not sympathetic to the group, left home, and school, to seek safety. “In September 2018, I took a bus to Kabul, where I applied for a passport. One short week later, I was able to leave for India, then travelled by a familiar people-smuggling route, to Malaysia by air, then through Indonesia by land … to Jakarta.
“I didn’t know exactly where I was going when I got on the plane in Kabul”, says Azar. “And I didn’t know what exactly what I would do when I finally got to my journey’s end.” But, his smugglers knew, and Azar was met at the airport and led quickly to the UNHCR, where he was left to register as an asylum seeker. Almost immediately, because he is a boy traveling alone Azar was settled in a group home – one of five that CWS manages for about 175 child refugees and asylum-seekers in Jakarta with support from the Jakarta off ice The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the United States Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration, and the Australian Department of Home Affairs.
Once he settled into his dorm room, Azar set about learning new things. He signed up for most of the classes offered: Indonesian, English, hair cutting and computer skills, include coding — where he found his calling, which seemed quite far from his dream of becoming an artist. Yet, in coding class, Azar found that he could sketch and make digital drawings, which he loves, and he did so well in his class that one of his teachers offered him an opportunity to work as an intern at Forbes magazine! “I got an email about the internship from Forbes. But I did not know how prestigious the magazine is”, says Azar. “I had never heard of this magazine, so I asked the Social Workers about it, and they explained how special this opportunity was”. The Forbes office is in the heart of one of Jakarta’s bustling commercial areas, so Azar felt intimidated by the tall, modern buildings, to start, and he also said he felt intimidated by his own dress. “I looked so different! I was a young kid in a polo shirt and slacks, and everyone else was wearing suits”. But, once in the building, Azar settled in with others’ help and took up his first assignment: sketch a portrait of one of Forbes Indonesia’s co-owners, which he did…and then transformed it using the Adobe Illustration tool he had learned to use back at the group home. Now that he has proved his skills, Azar’s main job is to help other employees. “I am usually given a picture to edit, which I know how to do pretty well. So, even though this is all new to me, I am learning by doing — something that I never dreamed of as a child in Afghanistan”.
Even CWS team members who work with all the young people in the group homes CWS manages are astounded by the opportunity Azar has been given and taken up with success. And, the team is proud of the many other learning, sharing and recreational activities they can organize to support teenagers like Azar to feel a bit settled and sorted in a world of uncertainty about the future.
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