Linen for Life: A Chance to Develop a New Talent … a Long Way from Home

CWS Indonesia | October 22, 2018

Amir with a pillow case he made. Photo: CWS

Born in Wardak Province in central Afghanistan, Amir (not his real name) left home when he was just 13 years old because his parents feared for his safety during continuing civil and sectarian strife in their country. First, they sent him to Kabul, and from there he traveled a familiar route arranged by well-known, and well-paid, “smugglers” of hundreds of Afghans each year: next to India and on to Malaysia and, eventually, to Indonesia. As for Amir, when he arrived in Jakarta, a man met him at the airport as arranged by his “smuggler”, and that man took him straight to the UNHCR office, where he told Amir that he should register for asylum. Then, to Amir’s surprise, the man vanished. UNHCR staff were not surprised at all; they are accustomed to this. So, they arranged for Amir and another child traveling alone to stay in a boarding house near the UNHCR office.

Now safely in a CWS-sponsored group home, Amir remembers that his first few days in Indonesia were a scary, like his journey had been. His story is unique to him in its details, but sadly familiar in the world today when 68.5 million people – including an estimated 30 million children – are outside their homes and homelands in search of safety and dignity. Source: UNHCR report.

Amir’s life in his Jakarta group home is now a far cry from his first few frightening first days in the boarding house. For Amir and other children, the CWS home is a safe haven where they can join a variety of classes and programs, get health care and, most importantly, make new friends. For Amir, his favorite thing about living in the group home is having the Social Workers and guards at hand to help him feel at home. “They are so kind and friendly, and I can talk to them personally like a friend, and they always encouraged me to go to classes,” says Amir. And, speaking of classes, Amir says he enjoys English and computer classes, but that his favorite one now is a tailoring project: Linen for Life. Facilitated by UNHCR and a local organization, Indonesia for Refugees, the project turns recycled materials into tote bags, floor mats and T-shirts! There one other boy joining him for the introductory course, where Amir is set to get his basic level certificate soon, and then he will continue to learn to make more intricate products such as formal shirts and backpacks. Amir really enjoys Linen for Life and recently said, “[As a child] I had not done tailoring before, of course; though it is a respected trade in my country. So, when CWS staff told me that I was accepted for the program I jumped at the opportunity. Now, I can’t wait to start learning how to make more difficult items.”

While advocating at the highest levels about the outrages and injustices of having 30 million children forcibly displaced from their homes and homelands, CWS is proud that our small project for nearly 200 unaccompanied and separately children, mostly Afghan and Somali boys, in Jakarta, is upholding their rights to protection and security – and offering some a bit of joy in making the most of a bad situation.

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