Asha was born in an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp near Mogadishu, Somalia, where her family sought refuge amidst turmoil in their village. Life was hard; food was scarce; the family relied on others, especially international aid organizations for food and water; usually, there was only one meal daily. There was constant discord in the camp, too, especially from Islamic fundamentalist groups like the well-known Al-Shabab.
Amid such hardship Asha never thought about going to school. She filled her time caring for babies and children in the camp near her family’s tent.
When Asha was 16 Al-Shabab militants killed her father, and immediately her family and neighbors were convinced that she must seek refuge outside their country. Since there are well-establish networks to help people flee such risk and harm, Asha’s family contracted a person to help her make the long but well-known trip to Indonesia. There, even though the country has not signed the United Nations Refugee Convention, Asha could secure asylum. Once in Jakarta, Asha also found her way to the United Nation’s High Commissioner for Refugee office to register herself and continue her journey to what she hopes will be a better life. As a first safe step, Asha settled into a CWS-supported group home, she began to feel at home. “The shelter gives me security, a place to sleep, food, health care support and social workers to talk to”, says Asha. There are also classes and recreational activities to help unaccompanied refugee teens like Asha pass the time and develop new skills.
Asha joined a class sewing class, which she enjoys and where she is one of the best students in her group. For the first time in her life, Asha has a hobby! “I never had a hobby before. Back in the IDP camp, I cared for babies and children, which was okay. But now I have an activity that I enjoy”. Asha is developing her sewing skills to ones that can help her earn a living too – wherever she is. Moving on from purses and tissue box covers, Asha is now learning to repair clothes and sew new garments too. “When I think about my life before coming to Jakarta, it was really difficult. Now that I have opportunities, I can [look to] my future. I have had many problems in my life, but I am so grateful to be alive!” CWS staff have enjoyed watching Asha grow in her time in the group home, and not just her sewing projects and what she will create next. Clearly, she is planning for more.
CWS offers many classes in five group homes like the one where Asha lives. The aim is to engage the girls and boys, mostly teenagers, who live in them, in meaningful learning. They study languages, computer use and sewing – and other things to help them when the move on to independent living at age 18.
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