More than a refugee

One week, seven lives


Whilst the news headlines may have largely moved on from the refugee crisis, the truth is that the situation is more desperate than ever. Conflict and persecution has forced more people from their homes than at any time since records began. The statistics are staggering, yet behind every number is a human soul with a story to tell. This week, we’ll be focusing on a different story each day, highlighting the humanity at the heart of this crisis.



Name: Khalid
Country of origin: Syria
Current location: Greece
Stat of the day: Out of the 21.3 million refugees around the world, 1 in 4 are Syrian

No father should have to take his family away from their home, but this is the reality for people like Khalid. When fierce fighting broke out in his home town of Idlib, Syria, Khalid gathered up his wife and two children and fled, fearing for their lives.

The family just managed to escape into Turkey unharmed. But for many refugees, escaping is just the beginning of their hardships. Khalid had to spend all the money that he had on getting his family from Turkey to Greece – itself a perilous journey across the sea.

The family arrived at the Greek island of Chios with no food and no money; but there was, at least, hope. Tearfund’s local Christian partners were there on Chios, offering vital support.

‘I just want a life for my family’
When we met with Khalid, he took us away to talk in broken English about what they’d been through. He didn’t want his family to see him as he started to break down, recollecting some of the awful things they had experienced. ‘I just want a life for my family,’ he said.

Our partners have provided food and hygiene kits for Khalid and his family. He was delighted with what he received, but his appreciation was for more than just physical things. He appreciated most the sentiment behind what he had been given – that people actually cared.

We will never stop caring for refugees like Khalid and his family. Let us all continue to pour out our prayers on their behalf.


Name: Amina
Country of origin: Ethiopia
Current location: Egypt
Stat of the day: 88 per cent of the world’s refugees are hosted by developing countries

Amina’s life in Ethiopia was tough, so she made the bold decision to start a new life in Egypt – a place she had heard was more prosperous. She began the long route through the desert, paying passing cars for lifts.

In the middle of her journey a man drove by and offered her a free lift, saying: ‘If you have no money, it’s OK.’ Relieved, Amina gratefully accepted. However, as night fell, the man raped her, telling her that if she couldn’t pay for his help, she must pay with her body.

Amina didn’t turn back and she finally arrived in Egypt. However, there was another traumatic turn to events; she discovered that she had fallen pregnant after the incident. She had no husband, family or money and was terrified about what the future held.

From helpless to hopeful
Feeling helpless and afraid, Amina approached Tearfund partner The Refugee Egypt Program, who supported Amina until she gave birth to her baby.

Then, they helped Amina find work. Amina took a cleaning course and quickly found a job cleaning an office, providing her with a stable income to support her new family.

Amina’s journey to Egypt went tragically wrong. But that wasn’t the end of the story. With the help and love of the of Refugee Egypt staff, Amina has regained her strength and has gone from being destitute and vulnerable, to feeling hopeful for her future.


Name: David
Country of origin: South Sudan (Yei)
Current location: South Sudan (Juba)
Stat of the day: Of the estimated 65.3 million displaced people in the world, 38.2 million are Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)

IDPs are people who have been forced from their homes, but either through choice or circumstance have not left their country. Nineteen-year-old David, from the town of Yei in South Sudan, is an IDP.

Yei was a vibrant town, full of opportunities, and David had an excellent start to life. His parents were successful farmers, with enough to both feed the family and sell for a profit.

David himself had big plans for the future: ‘I want to become a mechanical engineer; I want to repair things.’ But these ambitions had to be put on hold when armed men came to Yei and started killing indiscriminately.

In God’s hands
The family gathered together for an emergency prayer meeting, where they decided to flee to the capital, Juba. It would be a journey fraught with danger, but they were tired of living in fear. They were crammed onto an open truck with a large group of other people fleeing.

What should have been a one day journey took four days because of damage to the roads and getting stopped by the military. The children were very afraid – there were dead bodies lining the road. ‘We were in God’s hands,’ says David.

They arrived in Juba safely, but now David’s father struggles to pay the rent, and they don’t have enough food. Tearfund are in South Sudan, providing food to families like David’s through vouchers and cash, as well as seeds, tools and training.

Despite all he’s been through, David’s faith remains strong. ‘As a young man, at my age, you are not supposed to go through all this,’ he tells us. ‘But with God you can make it through.’


Name: Amira
Country of origin: Syria
Current location: Jordan
Stat of the day: More than half of all refugees are under 18

Amira is a pretty normal 16-year-old. She’s got the usual interests: pop music, boys and her mobile phone. Here, she tells us her story in her own words.

'One night the bombs were coming closer and closer. A rocket landed on the roof of our house, but no one was injured. We ran in fear to another house. We were so terrified we didn’t even think about taking anything with us. Our dad took us out of the country through a smuggler.

'When we arrived at the refugee camp, there were already many tents. We bought some materials to make a tent - some wood and plastic sheeting. The men built it. Our tent has two rooms and a kitchen area. There are 13 of us living here.

Treasured memories
'We could pick up and leave at any time, as we don’t have anything of value here. My most treasured things are my necklaces. I wear them all at the same time, because they have many memories. One was given to me by a boyfriend, but I don’t want my mother to know about that!

‘We have so many needs that you can’t count them. We have to pay for water to be brought in by truck, but it’s very dirty. But now we have a water filter in our tent, and a latrine that was installed by an NGO. We receive food distributions, so we have enough food.

‘It helps to know that we are not alone, as there are many others here in the same situation as us. We miss everything about home. We would love to go back.’


Name: Yella
Country of origin: Dominican Republic
Current location: Haiti
Stat of the day: There are 10 million stateless people around the world who have been denied a nationality and access to basic rights

‘My parents were born in Haiti, but I was born and raised in the Dominican Republic. I am over 30 years old and came to Haiti for the first time last month, when I was arrested and deported from the Dominican Republic for having Haitian ancestry.’

These are the words of Yella, who became a refugee in Haiti... simply for having a Haitian heritage. In 2013, the Dominican Republic passed a court ruling which stripped citizenship from anyone living in the country who did not have at least one fully Dominican parent.

The law applied to every individual who had settled in the Dominican Republic from as far back as 1929. Buses full of families of Haitian descent were soon deported back to neighbouring Haiti.

Yella and many others suddenly faced a new stateless status: stripped of their Dominican citizenship yet never formally identified as Haitian. Yella and her family found themselves living in a refugee camp in south-east Haiti.

Our local partner World Concern we were able to provide food, hygiene kits, basic necessities, and training sessions to refugee families. We have also worked to identify the most vulnerable families, and helped relocate them into long-term housing.

Yella’s family were among those able to move into a permanent new home, offering stability, greater comfort, and hope for a new life. Despite the loss and uncertainty, Yella says, ‘Even though everything seemed so bad, I choose to have hope, I knew that God was watching.’


Name: Fortuné
Country of origin: Rwanda
Current location: Rwanda
Stat of the day: 33,972 people are forced to flee their home every day because of conflict and persecution

Some refugees are lucky enough that they will be able to return home. But what then? How do you pick up the pieces of your life when you’ve been away for 20 years, as was the case for Fortuné, from Rwanda.

Like two million others, Fortuné was forced to flee the country during the Rwandan genocide, 1994. Weeks went by. Then months. Then years. When she was finally able to return, it was a bittersweet homecoming. She had no land, no income, not even a roof over her head.

‘I had nothing, but now I’m somewhere’
That was then. Now, her life looks very different. Fortuné discovered a Tearfund-supported self-help group, part of a growing movement of communities that are learning that the answer to poverty lies within themselves.

As part of the group, Fortuné was given empowering business and financial know-how. Not only that, but she also formed strong social bonds that have given her renewed confidence. Every week the members each add a little money to their collective savings, which they can then loan out to members in need.

‘I didn’t have land, but through this group I managed to get money to rent a piece of land to farm,’ Fortuné explains. ‘I had nothing but now I’m somewhere because of this group.’


Name: Ghassan 
Country of origin: Iraq
Current location: Jordan
Stat of the day: 53 per cent of the world’s refugees come from just three countries: Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia

One of Tearfund’s partner organisations in Amman, Jordan has been running exercise classes for refugee men from Iraq and Syria. It’s been a big hit and has brought some surprising benefits...

The ethos of the classes revolves around teamwork, camaraderie and encouragement. Participants range from a three-year-old boy to a man in his 70s. There is a joyful atmosphere and it is easy to forget that this is a room full of refugees.

Many who have come to Jordan struggle with depression. Few of them are able to find work, and they are often dealing with trauma from the conflict they have fled from. Ghassan is 52 and a refugee from Iraq.

‘Food is not more important than my soul’
‘These classes have given all of the participants self confidence and to have hope in life,’ Ghassan tells us. ‘There are other organisations that support us with food. It is important, but for me food is not more important than my soul. This helps me to be more at peace.’

Talk to any of the men about their former lives and what they have escaped and you can quickly see how much they have gone through. Ghassan wells up as he talks about his old job, his arrest and torture and the disappearance of his son in law – presumed dead.

‘When I talk about it I feel pain. Even though I have many problems in my body and I’m sick, this helps me to forget everything. I don’t even remember the problems I have, because the coach is like my brother, he’s seriously like my brother, and it helps me to get better.’

A prayer for the refugee

Names in this feature have been changed for security purposes

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